An employer had a program where it helped disabled people have jobs as janitors. The employer provided vocational training and employment to individuals with significant disabilities. These janitors were people living with medically-certified severe physical, mental or psychological impairments who worked as janitors to obtain economic independence.
Female employees who worked the night-shift reported that their supervisor routinely sexually harassed at least five women.
Specifically they alleged that the company supervisor:
Although the female employees repeatedly made complaints regarding the supervisor, but the company did nothing to stop the harassment.
The EEOC determined that efforts to conciliate the charges were unsuccessful and filed a lawsuit against the employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to correct unlawful employment practices on the basis of sex, retaliation and disability. EEOC v. Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay and Calidad Industries, Civil Action No. 4:16-CV-07093. The above "facts" came from the lawsuit or press coverage.
After 15 months of litigation expenses, the employer agreed to settle the lawsuit for $850,000.
The manager also provided statements supporting the janitors in conjunction with the EEOC’s investigation. The company knew that the manager provided statements to the EEOC investigator.
Two months later, the company reprimanded and disciplined the manager, and also transferred her to the night shift which the manager felt was an environment so abusive and oppressive that she had no choice but to quit.
A second manager informed the company of a female janitor’s complaint of inappropriate behavior against the night shift supervisor, but third manager attempted to persuade him that the complaint was based on a misunderstanding. The second manager disagreed and explained that he witnessed the supervisor making a comment to a female janitor that contained sexual innuendo. The second manager was warned against providing a supporting witness statement. Despite this warning, the second manager provided a statement to the EEOC which supported the sexual harassment claims against the supervisor. The month following the second manager’s participation in the discrimination investigations, the company began criticizing his work, and he was later reprimanded for failing to perform duties for which he had no responsibility.As a result of the female janitors filing charges of discrimination with the EEOC, the EEOC investigated and determined there was reasonable cause to believe that Title VII and the ADA were violated.
Eventually another entity revoked the supervisor’s access to the building because of the harassment allegations, and the employer transferred him to another location, but never disciplined him for any of the alleged harassment.
A manager received complaints from female janitors on the night shift regarding their supervisor’s sexually inappropriate behavior, comments and touching, and the manager promptly notified company officials of the complaints and afterward helped the women memorialize their complaints in writing. When the company failed to make a meaningful response to the complaints, the manager directed the women to the EEOC and helped them file charges of discrimination with the EEOC.
Supervisor creating situations for female employees to bend over?
According to the consent decree settling the lawsuit, in addition to the large monetary amount, the employer will also revise its EEO policies and complaint and investigation procedures; institute supervisor accountability policies concerning discrimination issues; conduct comprehensive training of their workforce; hire a consultant to monitor any responses to future complaints, and provide reports to the EEOC regarding adherence to the decree’s terms.
EEOC spokespersons directed employees, whether they are a target or a bystander, if they see harassment in the workplace, they should call the EEOC. Also, “The #MeToo movement illustrates that sexual harassment impacts people across industries, from white collar to blue collar work, across class, race, age, gender and abilities. In this case, there were many factors that contributed to the vulnerability of these janitors – all were African-American, many were young females new to the workplace, with disabilities, working the isolated night shift. Employers must take proactive measures to stop predators who would abuse their power over vulnerable workers.”
One of the employees stated that it was her first job, and she enjoyed being able to earn her own money, but after her boss put his arms around her, she did not feel safe at work. She explained that her complaints were ignored by the company, but she was “so glad the EEOC filed this lawsuit to stop the harassment and to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Florida businesses are reminded that protecting vulnerable workers from harassment is one of the EEOC’s top priorities.
If you own a Florida business and you have questions about sexual harassment or sex discrimination, you may email the Law Office of David Miklas, P.A. for a consultation or you can call David Miklas at 1-772-465-5111 to discuss sexual discrimination in Florida and conducting a proper investigation.
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