Downhole Technology to Pay $120,000 To Settle EEOC Suit for Race-Based Harassment and Retaliation

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Fracking Company Fired Black Employee After He Complained That Coworkers Used a White Hood to Harass Him, Federal Agency Charged

HOUSTON -A Houston manufacturer of equipment used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has agreed to pay a former employee $120,000 and provide other relief to settle a retaliatory discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged Downhole Technology, LLC with violating federal law when it retaliated against employee Kenneth Echols after he complained that he had been racially harassed. Echols, who is African-American, reported that his coworkers had used a white hood – evocative of the type used by the Ku Klux Klan – to intimidate, ridicule, and insult him. The EEOC alleged that in response to Echols’s complaint, the company told him that the incident was meant as a joke. The company then fired Echols for refusing to sign a declaration stating that it had adequately responded to his complaint regarding the incident. Before reporting the incident, Echols’s record with the company was unblemished, the EEOC said.

This conduct, the EEOC said, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits an employer from discriminating against – or allowing coworkers to harass – an employee because of the employee’s race. That act also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for reporting discrimination, including harassment.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-00574) in the Houston Division of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the EEOC and the company resolved the claim, which led to the two-year consent decree announced today.

Under that decree, Downhole Technology will pay Echols $120,000 in monetary relief and will provide a variety of other, non-monetary relief. For instance, the decree requires that Downhole train its employees, including its supervisors, on the requirements imposed by Title VII, and also educate them about the history of hate groups, their symbols and the harm they cause to others. Downhole will also revamp its anti-discrimination policy and establish a toll-free telephone number through which employees will be able to report discrimination and harassment.

“This settlement is both fair and just,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office. “I’m confident that Downhole is now as committed as we are in ensuring that incidents of race-based harassment are treated with the seriousness and gravity the law demands.”

Decostar Industries Sued By EEOC For Religious Discrimination

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Carrollton Auto Parts Manufacturer Fired Employee Over Sabbath Request, Federal Agency Charged

ATLANTA – Decostar Industries, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of automotive parts based in Carrollton, Ga., violated federal law by discriminating against an employee because of her religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Decostar violated federal law by firing Dina Lucas Velasquez rather than accommodating her religious beliefs. Sometime in 2010, Decostar required all employees to work mandatory overtime hours on designated Saturdays. Line worker Velasquez requested that she be excused from working Saturdays due to her religious belief that she cannot work during her weekly Sabbath, which she observes from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. The EEOC said that Decostar initially granted Velasquez’s request until January 2014, when a new supervisor took over her department and denied her ongoing request for a religious accommodation. Decostar subsequently discharged Velasquez on Oct. 27, 2014.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Decostar Industries, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-00054-TCB-RGV) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Velasquez, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“The EEOC remains vigilant in enforcing the mandates of federal law requiring employers to properly consider all requests and to grant accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director for EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “Unfortunately, employers refusing time off for religious observances has become an increasingly common issue affecting the workforce. We hope that suits like this will help educate employers on their responsibilities to respect workers’ religious needs.”

Better 4 You Breakfast Settles EEOC Lawsuit for Retaliatory Discrimination

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School Meals Provider Will Pay $62,500 to Settle Retaliation Claims and Provide Training to Employees on Retaliation

PHOENIX – A Commerce, Calif.-based company that provides prepared meals to schools has agreed to settle the claims against it in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s suit charged that Better 4 You Breakfast violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by retaliating against five Phoenix employees who had opposed unlawful sexual harassment and participated in an EEOC investigation of that harassment. While Better 4 You Breakfast had no role in the harass­ment against these employees, the EEOC charged that the company refused to rehire the five emp­loyees because they had engaged in the protected activity.

“Retaliation for participating in protected activity in the workplace cannot be allowed,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “In this case, these employees were not allowed to return to work because they asserted their right to oppose harassment in the workplace. We are pleased that Better 4 You worked cooperatively with us to resolve the claims against them and to evaluate its policies and training on retaliation.”

The 24-month consent decree settling the suit provides that Better 4 You Breakfast will pay $62,500 to the five retaliation victims. In addition, the company will provide training to its supervisors and employees to ensure that they know what actions are retaliatory and how to prevent retaliation in the future. The decree also requires Better 4 You Breakfast to post a notice in the workplace explaining what retaliation is and what employees should do if they feel they have been retaliated against.

Elizabeth Cadle, the director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, said, “The successful resolu­tion of these claims is part of the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to enforce federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. Retaliation is one of the most common forms of workplace discrimination; nearly 46 percent of charges allege it. The outcome here should encourage all employers to respect the rights of employees who engage in legally protected activity.”

Desco Industries Will Pay $45,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit

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Manufacturer Terminated Employee for Complaining About Race Discrimination, Federal Agency Charged

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Desco Industries, Inc., a California corporation doing business in Sanford, N.C., will pay $45,000 to settle a workplace retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged that Desco Industries violated federal law when it discharged Daniel Worthy in retaliation for complaining about race discrimination.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Daniel Worthy worked for Desco in 2015 through a third-party staffing agency. Around February 2015, Worthy discussed his interest in a forklift position with Desco’s warehouse foreman. Based on their discussion, Worthy expected he was in line for the next open forklift position. When Worthy, who is black, later saw a non-black employee operating a fork­lift, he believed Desco had passed him over for the position because of his race. Worthy com­plained to the staffing agency recruiter who notified Desco of Worthy’s race discrimination complaint. Within days of learning about Worthy’s complaint, Desco fired Worthy in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from terminating someone who reports race discrimination or other employment practices which he or she reasonably believes violate Title VII. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Desco Industries, Inc., Civil Action No 1:16-CV-00858) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Worthy, a two-year consent decree requires Desco to develop and implement an anti-retaliation policy and to conduct annual training for supervisors and managers on Title VII’s prohibition against retaliation. Desco Industries must also post an employee notice about the lawsuit and provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

“Federal law protects those who come forward to report suspected employment discrimin­a­tion,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC stands ready to enforce those protections.”

ABL Management to Pay $35,000 to Settle Retaliation Lawsuit with EEOC

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Company Fired Panama City Employee After He Reported Male Supervisor Sexually Harassed Him, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – ABL Management, Inc., a Baton Rouge, La.-based food management company, will pay $35,000 and furnish other relief to settle a retaliatory discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, ABL assigned employee Duane Gatson to serve as a kitchen supervisor at the Bay County Jail Facility in Panama City, Fla. While working in an isolated food storage area, Gaston was approached and groped by a male kitchen manager, the EEOC said. Thereafter, Gatson reported the offending conduct to his immediate supervisor. Following his report, he was advised that the company would conduct an investigation regarding his charges. However, within several weeks of making his report of sexual harassment, ABL fired Gaston as retaliation for complaining, the EEOC said.

Such alleged misconduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who has participated in an investigation under Title VII, including an employer’s internal investigation. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. ABL Management, Inc., 5:16-cv-00187-RH-GRJ) on June 30, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Panama City after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $35,000 payment, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit requires ABL to take specific actions designed to prevent future discrimination, including implementing policies and practices designed to prevent discrimination based on sex and retaliation, providing anti-discrimination training to employees, and posting anti-discrimination notices in its workplace. The decree also requires ABL to appoint a qualified consultant who will help implement policies, provide direction for potential investigations, and train ABL employees and managers about retaliation.

“When an employer fires an employee for complaining about sexual harassment, it sends the signal that it’s not safe to resist discrim­ination,” EEOC Birmingham District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas said. “Employers should be aware that the law protects employees who report this kind of misconduct and that the EEOC will enforce laws that protect workers’ rights.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker added, “The EEOC is committed to vigorous enforce­ment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits retaliation against employees who report discrimination.”

According to company information, Baton Rouge, La.-based ABL is a national food management company that contracts with businesses to provide finished meals, as well as commissary and laundry programs, to correctional, commercial, healthcare and educational facilities.

Mariscos Altata Sued by EEOC For Sexual And Age-Based Harassment and Retaliation

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Phoenix Restaurant Subjected Women to Physical and Verbal Abuse, Federal Agency Charges

PHOENIX – Phoenix restaurant Mariscos Altata violated federal law by subjecting female employees to a hostile work environment based on their sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The EEOC also charged the company with subjecting one female employee to a hostile work environment based on her age and retaliating against female employees that opposed the harassment that they endured.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the female employees of Mariscos Altata were subjected to unwanted touching, grabbing, fondling, sexual comments, requests for sex and other unlawful conduct since at least February 2011. The EEOC alleged that one female was subjected to harassment based on her age, including comments that she was a “worthless old lady” and coworkers taking bets on her age. The lawsuit further alleges that Mariscos Altata fired the women when they refused to comply with the sexual demands they endured.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination and retaliation, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees over the age of 40. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Francisco’s Fine Foods, LLC d/b/a Mariscos Altata, Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-00945-JZB, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future.

“Employees must be able to go to work in an environment where they are not constantly subjected to abusive behavior,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “The agency takes this behavior extremely seriously, and is taking steps to make sure that employers know that restaurants need to be a safe place for women to work.”

Elizabeth Cadle, the director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “Female employees need to be able to stand up for themselves without fear of termination. Unfortunately, over 45 percent of charges to the EEOC involve allegations of retaliation – the most common type of discrimination charge.”

Food Service Company to Pay $35,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

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Legendary Baking Fired Employee Because of Spinal Cord Condition, Federal Agency Charged

CHICAGO – An Illinois food service company will pay $35,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Nashville, Tenn.-based American Blue Ribbons Holding, LLC dba Legendary Baking, violated federal law by denying light duty work to Patricia Hall, an employee at its Oak Forest, Ill., baking facility. Hall has CSP myelopathy, a condition affecting her spinal cord. The company then fired Hall and refused to rehire her because of her disability, the EEOC charged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit on Aug. 23, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (Civil Action No. 16 C 8266) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge John Robert Blakey, Legendary Baking will pay Hall $35,000. In addition, the decree enjoins Legendary Baking from engaging in disability discrimination or retaliation. Further, the decree requires the company to train its managers at the Oak Forest location with respect to the requirements of the ADA and to report complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC.

“The EEOC is satisfied that this employer now clearly understands that disability discrimination is unacceptable and unlawful,” said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago. “We also are gratified that vigorous enforcement on the Commission’s part has led to appropriate corrective action and compensation for the victim.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour noted that the settlement was negotiated before the parties engaged in extended litigation or pretrial discovery.

Gochanour said, “We appreciate Legendary Baking’s determination to work with the EEOC to quickly resolve the case by providing compensation to Ms. Hall and undertaking measures to assure future compliance with the ADA.”

Rite Way to Settle EEOC Retaliation Suit

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Federal Agency Wins $70,000 for Worker Who Was Fired for Helping With Sexual Harassment Investigation

GULFPORT, Miss. – Rite Way Service, Inc., a former Alabama corporation that provided janitorial cleaning services to commercial facilities in Mississippi and elsewhere in the Southeast, has agreed to pay $70,000 to a former employee to settle a federal lawsuit for unlawful retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

According to the suit, Rite Way violated federal law by firing an employee in retaliation for participating in an internal investigation concerning a sexual harassment complaint made by a coworker, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit. Rite Way employed Mekeva Tennort to perform janitorial duties at Biloxi Junior High School. In August 2011, Tennort gave a statement to supervisors investigating a sexual harassment complaint by another employee. The Commission alleged that, soon afterward, Rite Way gave Tennort several written warnings about untrue supposed performance issues, and then fired her based on these unfounded accusations.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for opposing unlawful sexual harassment, including participating in an employer’s internal sexual harassment investigation. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Rite Way Service, Inc., Case No. 3:13-cv-00407-CWR-FKB) on June 27, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary payment to Tennort, the three-year consent decree settling the suit requires Rite Way to distribute its anti-discrimination policy to specific former Rite Way employees. Further, if during the term of the consent decree, Rite Way resumes doing business, it must develop and implement policies to prevent future discrimination and retaliation, train its managers, supervisors, and all employees on unlawful discrimination, and provide reports of its compliance to the EEOC.

“Preserving access to the legal system remains a national priority for the EEOC,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, director of the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “This settlement demonstrates the Commission’s ongoing commitment to protect employees who participate in workplace investigations from illegal retaliation.”

EEOC Birmingham District Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker added, “This lawsuit and resulting settlement achieves the EEOC’s objectives of providing specific relief to the victim and educating employers that Title VII not only protects those who file a charge of discrimination, but also for those who speak up during the course of a workplace investigation.”

In FY 2016, the EEOC received 42,018 retaliation charges, which reflects 45.9% of all charges received.

According to company information, Rite Way now operates as a separate division of Diversified Maintenance Systems, LLC in the Southeast. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., Rite Way has over 40 years of experience in providing janitorial services to customer in manufacturing, industrial, office buildings, banking, education, government, healthcare and utilities.

EEOC Sues Fracking Company for Race-Based Harassment and Retaliation

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Downhole Technology Fired a Black Employee for Complaining About Racial Intimidation With a KKK Hood, Federal Agency Charges

HOUSTON – A manufacturer of equipment used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) violated federal law when it retaliated against an employee for reporting that he had been harassed by his white coworkers because of his race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC’s suit alleges that Downhole Technology failed to adequately respond after Kenneth Echols, who is black, reported that his coworkers had used a white hood – evocative of the type used by the Ku Klux Klan – to intimidate, ridicule and insult him. The suit also contends that, rather than addressing his concerns, Downhole Technology instead reprimanded and then fired Echols for reporting the conduct to them.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because of race or allowing coworkers to harass him. It also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for reporting discrimination, including harassment.

The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-00574) in the Houston Division of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after it unsuccessfully attempted to reach a settlement agreement with Downhole Technology through its pre-suit conciliation process.

The EEOC is asking the court to permanently enjoin Downhole Technology from engaging in future discrimination and retaliation. It is also asking the court to order Downhole Technology to pay Echols both punitive and compensatory damages, in addition to lost wages and benefits.

“Employers cannot and must not discriminate on the basis of an employee’s race,” said Rayford Irvin, director for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, which has jurisdiction over parts of Texas and all of Louisiana. “Doing so denies employment equality and violates federal law.”

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the Houston District Office, cautioned, “Employers who disregard their employees’ rights to be free from discrimination will be held accountable by the EEOC.”

EEOC Sues Discovering Hidden Hawaii Tours for Male-on-Male Sexual Harassment

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Company PresidentSexually Harassed Male Employees for More Than a Decade, Federal Agency Charges

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Three related Hawaii tour companies — Discovering Hidden Hawaii Tours, Inc., Hawaii Tours and Transporta­tion, Inc. and Big Kahuna Luau, Inc. — violated federal anti-discrim­ination laws by allowing the ongoing sexual harassment of male employees, the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, the president of Discovering Hidden Hawaii Tours engaged in a pattern of sexually harassing young males after recruiting them to work for his companies. The harass­ment, which spanned more than a decade, included inviting males to join in sex parties with him; show­ing them pornographic videos and photos; requiring them to show him their private parts in order to be considered for employment; making employment opportunities contingent upon engaging in sexual acts with him; and performing unwanted sexual acts on male employees.

The EEOC further contends that when employees complained about the harassment, the company failed to take corrective action. Some male employees felt that they had no other recourse but to quit. In some instances, the president retaliated against male employees after they complained about the harassment to their supervisors, according to the suit.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Discovering Hidden Hawaii Tours, Inc., Case No: 1:17-cv-00067) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency’s suit seeks back pay, along with compensatory and punitive damages for a class of individuals, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

“All employees, regardless of gender, have the right to work in a harassment-free workplace and should never be forced to endure such abuse,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “I applaud these young men for coming forward to tell their stories.”

Glory Gervacio Saure, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “Harassment is alleged in 31% of all charges filed with the EEOC. When employers fail to address workplace harass­ment, employees often feel that they must choose between putting up with the abuse or quitting. No one should have to make that choice.”

According to the company’s website, www.discoverhiddenhawaiitours.com, Discovering Hidden Hawaii Tours provides guided tours of Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai.

Individuals who may have experienced sexual harassment or have information pertaining to sexual harassment in connection with employment at Discovering Hidden Hawaii Tours should contact the EEOC at 808-541-3133 for more information.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).