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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
10-20-10

The Redwoods In Yosemite To Pay $165,000 For Harassment And Discrimination Against Latinos

Latino Housekeepers and a Non-Latino Manager Who Defended Them Forced Out by Operations Manager Who Complained That Mexicans Gave Him a Headache, Says EEOC

FRESNO – A vacation home rental management company in Yosemite National Park will pay $165,000 and furnish injunctive relief to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit against Wawona Property Management, Inc., doing business as The Redwoods in Yosemite, seven Latino employees were targeted for harassment, discipline, heightened scrutiny, and eventual termination by an operations manager who favored non-Latino staff. The EEOC also obtained relief on behalf of the general manager, who was suspended and fired after reporting the discriminatory conduct to the board of directors.

According to the EEOC, the victims were longtime seasonal employees of Mexican and Salvadoran descent, who worked in the housekeeping and maintenance departments since as far back as 1997. In November 2006, the company hired a new operations manager who expressed a disdain for the Latino employees early on, allegedly stating that “Mexicans had given [him] a headache” and that he did not like people of color.

The operations manager verbally abused and formally disciplined Latino staff for alleged infractions such as taking coffee breaks and failing cleaning inspections. The EEOC contends that two Latino housekeepers were disciplined after calling in absences due to the sudden hospitalization of their son, while non-Latino employees who violated company policies were promoted. When the general manager raised the concerns of the Latino claimants to the company’s board of directors, the general manager was suspended and ultimately terminated. Thereafter, the operations manager forced the Latino claimants to quit due to his hostility towards them, the EEOC said.

The EEOC filed suit against Wawona in September 2009 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wawona Property Management, Inc. dba The Redwoods in Yosemite, Case No. 1:09-CV-016903 LJO-SKO), asserting that the national origin harassment, discrimination and retaliation were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This settlement is a first for the EEOC in California’s national parks.

The parties entered into a three-year consent decree in which Wawona agreed to revise its policies and procedures with respect to discrimination, harassment, retaliation and employee evaluations. The company further agreed to contract an equal employment opportunity consultant; periodically provide live anti-discrimination training to all employees in both English and Spanish, with additional training for managerial staff on how to properly handle complaints of discrimination and harassment in a neutral manner; track and report potential violations of Title VII; and display a posting on the matter.

“No matter how remote a place may seem, the EEOC aims to serve all workers who may be victims of unlawful discrimination,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Notwithstanding, the EEOC is pleased that Wawona is taking measures to rectify the situation and prevent future incidents of discrimination from occurring.”

Melissa Barrios, local director of the EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, said, “Workers should be able to come forward about discrimination they may be experiencing without fear that actions will be taken against them. Employers who engage in such illegal retaliation can and will be held accountable by the EEOC.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.