Posts Tagged ‘retaliation’

EEOC: Retaliation Cost Lab Employee Promotion

It’s civil rights law 101 that it’s illegal to deny an employee a job opportunity because he or she has complained about employment discrimination.

Maybe this employer missed class that day.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (“Fermilab”) violated civil rights law by failing to promote a female engineer in retaliation for her complaint of sex-based discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed August 13. Fermilab is a particle physics and accelerator laboratory in Batavia, Ill., that employs over 1,750 people.

The EEOC’s pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that only months after a female engineer filed a sex-based discrimination grievance at work, she was denied a promotion for an engineering management position despite being the most qualified candidate.

“Federal employment discrimination laws depend on the willingness of employees to challenge discrimination without fear or punishment,” said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits unlawful employment practices, including retaliation against an employee for making a sex discrimination complaint. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Civil Action No. 18-cv-5486, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman.

“Fermilab violated the law when it failed to promote such a highly-qualified female employee because she exercised her rights under Title VII,” said Gregory Gochanour, EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “The EEOC is committed to enforcing the law to ensure that people are free to raise complaints about discrimination.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

$20K Payment Settles EEOC Retaliation Charge

Employers can’t require their employees to waive their legal rights in order to receive a promotion.

That point is driven home in this settlement of a retaliation charge.

Southeast Food Services, a large franchisee formerly operating over 30 restaurants as Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, will pay $20,000 to settle a retaliation charge filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Aug. 10.

A former employee filed a charge with the EEOC’s Nashville office alleging Southeast Food Services (Southeast Food) required employees to sign a general release to receive a promotion. A provision in the release prohibited employees from exercising their right to file discrimination complaints. The EEOC’s investigation found that Southeast retaliated against the former employee by rescinding a promotion offer after the employee selected for promotion refused to sign the general release. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Without admitting liability and to avoid the cost of litigation, Southeast Food agreed to enter into a one-year conciliation agreement with the EEOC and the alleged aggrieved party, thereby avoiding litigation. During the EEOC’s investigation, Southeast Food ceased its practice of requiring the general release as a condition of promotion.

“Southeast Food Services has been cooperative in working with the EEOC to resolve this charge without having to resort to litigation,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC’s Memphis District, which includes Nashville in its jurisdiction. “We commend Southeast Food Services’ willingness to reassess and change its promotion process so that employees no longer have to forfeit their civil rights to receive a promotion.”

W.Va. Restaurant on Hook For $66,000 in Settlement of Harassment, Retaliation Lawsuit

What’s on the menu for female employees at this West Virginia restaurant wasn’t very appealing, federal regulators say.

Las Trancas of Martinsburg, Inc., a restaurant in Martinsburg, W.V., has agreed to pay $66,598 and provide other relief to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced August 9. The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that Las Trancas violated federal law by subjecting female employees to egregious sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Las Trancas subjected former employees Raquel Ramirez Rivera and Virginia Sanchez Garcia to a hostile work environment because of their sex, including regular and repeated sexual touching and grabbing, lewd sexual comments, and other offensive and threatening behaviors by several male supervisors and coworkers. The EEOC charged that Sanchez Garcia was fired as a result of the harassment when she refused to submit to her supervisor’s advances. The EEOC’s suit further charged that the restaurant subjected Ramirez Rivera to unfavorable terms and conditions of her employment and a constructive discharge because of her sex and in retaliation for opposing Las Trancas’s unlawful employment practices.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids sexual harassment in employment and retaliation for opposing such misconduct. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00116) after first attempting to reach a pre-suit settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

The consent decree resolving the EEOC’s lawsuit has been approved and entered by court. In addition to paying $66,598 in monetary relief to the victims, Las Trancas has agreed to post notices of employee rights required under Title VII, develop and implement an anti-discrimination policy, and provide training on discrimination and harassment to all employees at the Martinsburg location and two other restaurant locations. The company will also appoint an equal employment opportunity officer and hire a third-party consultant to assist with investigating and responding to future complaints of discrimination and harassment. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the two-year consent decree.

“No worker should ever have to endure sexually degrading and humiliating work conditions in order to earn a living,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the agency’s Philadelphia District Office. “Employers should encourage victims of sexual harassment to come forward, not illegally punish their employees for reporting such abuse. Encouraging employees to report sexual harassment in the workplace is both smart business practice and the right thing to do.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson added, “We commend Las Trancas for working collaboratively with the EEOC’s legal unit to put systems in place to prevent and correct future incidents of sexual harassment. This sort of abuse is far too common in the restaurant industry. The EEOC is committed to protecting restaurant workers from sexual harassment and to vindicating their rights under federal law to resist such mistreatment and report it.

Crop Yield: $300K Settlement Against Farm Labor Contractor in Harassment, Retaliation Lawsuit

Sexual harassment isn’t limited to offices, factory floors, and restaurants. It happens on farms also. And in this recent case harassed female farm workers obtained some measure of justice.

Bornt & Sons, Inc. and its former farm labor contractor Barraza Farm Service, LLC/ Barraza Farm Service, Inc. will pay $300,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced July 25.

According to the EEOC, a farm manager sexually harassed a class of four female workers by leering at them; grabbing their private areas; making sexual comments; and subjecting them to unwanted touching and kissing. The EEOC contends that the manager retaliated against at least three women who refused his sexual advances, either by firing or refusing to rehire them — a tactic also employed against workers who reported or complained about the harassment. Bornt & Sons and Barraza also fired at least three male farmworkers for their familial association with the sexual harassment victims, according to the EEOC. The EEOC further charged that the companies failed to take corrective action when they became aware of the federal investigation into sexual harassment, instead moving the harasser to a different farm.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against the agribusiness in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in April 2017 (EEOC v. Bornt & Sons, Inc. dba Bornt Family Farms; Barraza Farm Service, LLC dba Barraza Farm Service and/or Barraza Farm Services; and Barraza Farm Service, Inc. dba Barraza Farm Service and/or Barraza Farm Services, Case No: 3:17-cv-00678-W-NLS). The court approved the consent decree that resolves this case, which remains under the court’s jurisdiction for the term of the decree.

As part of the three-year consent decree, Bornt & Sons and Barraza Farm Services will pay $300,000 to the sexual harassment and retaliation victims. The companies further agreed to immediate reinstatement for those workers previously denied reemployment, along with the assignment of an EEO compliance coordinator who will assist in regular EEO compliance audits. The companies also agreed to the creation of a new employee policy manual addressing harassment and its reporting procedures, sexual harassment and EEO training of all staff members, and the creation of a centralized record keeping log to track all harassment complaints. The EEOC will monitor compliance with this agreement.

“Sexual harassment continues to remain a persistent problem in the agriculture industry,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes San Diego in its jurisdiction. “Employers should take advantage of the EEOC’s harassment report recommendations to ensure a hostile free work environment.”

Rosa Viramontes, director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “In this case, the farmworkers exhibited great courage in reporting the harassment and showing others that there are resources to combat such abuse. Employers should welcome reports of harassment as an opportunity to stop and correct inappropriate behavior. Retaliation against workers who exercise their right to complain is not only against the law, but also allows the hostile work environment to fester.”

Bornt & Sons, headquartered in Holtville, Calif., operates organic farms specializing in organic salad mix in Imperial County, Calif. Barraza Farm Service is a labor contractor that provides workers to area farms. Barraza Farm Service has locations in Calipatria and Holtville, Calif.

Eliminating discriminatory practices affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

EEOC: Fla. Merchandiser Allowed Race Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

The only thing fanatical about this workplace apparently was the racial venom directed at some its employees.

Fanatics Retail Group, Inc. violated federal law by subjecting employees to racial discrimination, harassment and retaliatory failure to promote, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on July 24. Jacksonville-based Fanatics is a leading online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, including NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NASCAR merchandise.

The EEOC’s suit charged that Fanatics’ Jacksonville workplace was racially divided, and that the company subjected employees to racial slurs and comments such as “We don’t need any outbreak monkeys here.” When an employee complained about the treatment, he was told that he would never be promoted.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-900-J-32PDB) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“The use of racial slurs in the workplace and retaliating against an employee for complaining is abhorrent,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg. “When such abuse occurs, the EEOC will vigorously seek to correct the bad practices and secure an appropriate remedy for the victim.”

EEOC District Director Michael Farrell added, “This type of outrageous discrimination has no place in the workplace. We hope that our lawsuit will send a message, not only to the defendant, but to the entire manufacturing and retail industry, that the EEOC will not tolerate this kind of misconduct – or retaliation for complaining about it.”

The EEOC’s Miami District Office is comprised of the Miami, Tampa and San Juan EEOC offices, and has jurisdiction over Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Credit Union Tagged in Retaliation Lawsuit

Now employers may need to screen their training videos to make sure they are not racially offensive.

Lafayette Schools’  Federal Credit Union unlawfully fired its only African-American branch manager  because she opposed – and assisted another black employee in opposing – its use  of a racially offensive video during a training session, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed July 13.

Lafayette Schools’ Federal Credit  Union, which recently changed its name to Meritus Credit Union, is based in  Lafayette, La. The branch manager, Connie Fields-Meaux, ran its branch in  Crowley, La., for about three years. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, during a  training session, Lafayette Schools’ Federal Credit Union used a video  depicting a caricature of an African-American fast food worker as an example of  “how not to provide customer service.” According to the suit, Fields-Meaux was  so upset by the video that she momentarily excused herself from the session and  that other black employees told Fields-Meaux that they, too, were upset by the  video. The EEOC said that Fields-Meaux reported the concerns of one of the  African-American employees the next day, and the day after that, Lafayette  Schools’ Federal Credit Union fired her, without warning or explanation.

Such alleged conduct violates Title  VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-06673)  in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first  attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.

The EEOC, which has authority to  bring the suit on behalf of the public, has asked the court to permanently  enjoin Lafayette Schools’ Federal Credit Union from engaging in future  retaliation. It has also asked the court to order it to pay Fields-Meaux both  punitive and compensatory damages as well as back pay.

“Employers must respond to – and  certainly not fire – employees who raise concerns about racially offensive  materials,” said Keith Hill, director for the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office.

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for  the Houston District Office, cautioned, “Retaliating against employees for  reporting racially offensive workplace conduct is a serious violation of  federal law that the EEOC will prosecute.”

EEOC Says Contractor Sent Hispanics Disproportionately to Dangerous Job Sites

Hispanic employees got the worst of this job situation, according to federal investigators.

Thornton, Colorado-based AMI Mechanical, Inc. violated federal law by color and national origin discrimination, retaliation and records destruction, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on June 26.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the plumbing and mechanical contractor, employed both Hispanic and white employees at the Yorkshire Apartments project in Thornton, Colo. AMI assigned non-white Hispanic employees to work in a confined space containing human waste and dangerous gas levels at a rate of nearly 4:1 compared to white non-Hispanic employees.

When one of the employees, Joseph Muniz, complained about the conditions and discrimination, his supervisor, Earl Jones, stated he would fire the Hispanic employees and “hire a bunch more . . . Mexicans” to replace them. AMI also stated in Muniz’s termination form that he had “caused a lot of problems” on the project, was permanently dismissed, and would not be recommended to other employers. AMI further destroyed, or failed to preserve, daily work reports for the Yorkshire Apartment Project that are relevant to the question of whether discrimination occurred there.

Such alleged conduct violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment because of national origin and color and retaliation against employees who oppose discrimination. Title VII also requires employers to maintain records relevant to whether unlawful employment practices have been committed. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court of Colorado (EEOC v. AMI Mechanical, Inc., Case No. 1:18-cv-01609-MEH) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief to prevent and address any future discrimination.

“Treating employees differently in job assignments because of their color or national origin violates Title VII, and we will continue to enforce our federal anti-discrimination laws,” said Elizabeth Cadle, district director for the EEOC’s Phoenix District, which includes Denver in its jurisdiction.

Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District, said, “Retaliating against an employee because he complained about national origin discrimination is another violation of federal law. Retaliation charges make up almost 50 percent of all of the discrimination complaints the EEOC receives, showing that it continues to be a major national problem that we will continue to combat.”