EEOC CLAMPS DOWN HARASSMENT



by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

The EEOC announced eight harassment settlements and one court judgment in a 16-day stretch from 6/21/12 to 7/6/12. The cases feature primarily harassment based on sex and race, but there are also complaints of harassment based on national origin, religious beliefs, and even pregnancy. Here’s the rundown:

On 6/21/12, the EEOC announced $125,000 settlement with Donahue Cardiology (in Washington, PA) relating to sexual harassment. Here, three cardiologists who owned or were shareholders in the practice and, according to the EEOC, they subjected three female employees by making sexually offensive and debasing comments. The females were also forced to look at sexually explicit pictures and cell phone messages. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-21-12.cfm

On 6/22/12, the EEOC announced a $23,000 settlement with a St. Louis Restaurant (Villa Galleria) in which the allegation was that a female employee (Edwonder Hobson) was sexually harassed by an assistant supervisor (Brian Jones). Jones purportedly rubbed his body against Hobson’s, tried to put his hands up her skirt, and tried to kiss her. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-22-12.cfm

On 6/25/12, the EEOC announced a $95,000 settlement with Country Fresh Market (in Brownsville, PA) relating to sexual harassment and retaliation. The allegation here is the company “knowingly permitted the flagrant sexual harassment of women who worked in the meat department”, including physical touching and repeated sexual advances and comments (talk about being Fresh). Despite complaints by the women, company official not only failed to take correction action; they also threatened the women with termination for complaining. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-25-12c.cfm

In another announcement on 6/25/12, the corporate officer (Frank A. Mora) of a Texas-based dry cleaning store agreed to a $43,000 settlement relating to sexual harassment. It was alleged Mora routinely subjected a female employees to requests for sexual favors, speaking to her in a suggestive manner, and physically touching her body. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-25-12d.cfm

On 6/29/12, the EEOC announced an 11 million dollar settlement with YRCC/Yellow Transportation Ends (based in Chicago, IL) on charges of systemic racial harassment. The EEOC had evidence that black employees were subjected multiple abuses, including hangman’s nooses and racist graffiti, cartoons, and comments. It was also alleged that the company subjected black employees to harsher discipline and scrutiny, and were given more difficult and time-consuming assignments than white comparators. Additionally, it was alleged that the company had received numerous complains by black employees over several years, and failed to take corrective action. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-29-12a.cfm

On 7/2/12, the EEOC announced a $90,000 settlement with Simpsonville Hotel (in Greenville, SC) related to sexual harassment. The allegations are that from August 2007 through January 2009, three women were subjected to sexual comments, sexual advances, and touching by the hotel’s general manager. Additional allegations include the corporate office’s failure to properly investigate or stop the harassment after a complaint by one of the women (Tamara Byrd), and that Byrd was subsequently fired by the general manager. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-2-12.cfm

On 7/3/12, the EEOC announced a $75,000 settlement with B.J. Con/Sew, an Asheboro, NC sewing contractors relating to harassment of a single Hispanic employee (Jason Ramirez). The allegation is that the harassment occurred on a daily basis between July 2006 through June 2008, during which time one co-worker subjected Ramirez to derogatory name-calling (including “wetback,” “crazy Mexican,” “dumb, stupid Mexican” and “half-breed.”). What made it worse was that a second co-worker who also harassed Ramirez was promoted to a supervisory role over Ramirez. Ramirez lodged repeated complaints to higher-level officials, including the plant manager, and felt he had to resign (i.e., constructive discharge) when his complaints failed to lead to corrective action. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-3-12.cfm

On 7/5/12, the EEOC announced a $365,000 settlement with Best Western Hotels in Tacoma, WA related to “bullying” based on sex, pregnancy, race, and religion. The allegation here is that the general manager “persistently” harassed and denigrated women, including minorities and those with strong religious beliefs. The general manager is also alleged to have used racial slurs and derogatory sex and race-based comments, and engaged in yelling and physical intimidation. The general manager also fired five women after learning they were pregnant. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-5-12.cfm

In addition to the above settlement, the EEOC announced on 7/6/12 that US District Court Judge Robert S. Lasnik order sanctions (on 7/3/12), including a $100,000 penalty against Fry’s Electronic Inc. due not only to sexual harassment and retaliation, but also, intentionally withholding information. The original allegations were that an assistant store manager sexually harassed a female employee (America Rios), as well as firing a supervisor (Ka Lam) in retaliation for complaining to management about how Rios was being treated. The case itself (EEOC v. Fry’s Electronics, Inc.) is set for trial in US District Court for the Western District of Washington beginning Nov. 5. See http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-6-12.cfm






Stay in the Know!