Employee Subjected to Unwelcome Comments and Sexual Assault, Federal Agency Charged
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Tuscarora Yarns, Inc. will pay $230,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the yarn manufacturing company subjected a female employee to sexual harassment based on her sex and retaliated against her for complaining about the harassment.
In its suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tuscarora Yarns, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-217), the EEOC alleged that Tuscarora Yarns, Inc. subjected Lilia Ixtlahuaca Martinez to sexual harassment by the former plant manager at its Oakboro, N.C., facility.
The EEOC said that the male plant manager propositioned Martinez for sex, made unwelcome sexual comments to her, inappropriately touched her and trapped her in an office where he sexually assaulted her. When she escaped from the office, the police were called. The harasser was arrested for sexual battery, but pled guilty to a lesser charge of assault on a female.
When Martinez complained about the sexual harassment, Tuscarora Yarns disciplined and suspended her in retaliation for her complaints, the EEOC charged. Martinez had worked for Tuscarora Yarns at its Oakboro plant as a linked winder operator for about two years when she was suspended.
In addition to the monetary damages, the consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires Tuscarora Yarns to redistribute its sexual harassment policy to employees. The company must also continue to post its sexual harassment policy, in both English and Spanish, at the Oakboro facility and provide annual training on sexual harassment and retaliation to its managers, supervisors and employees. Finally, Tuscarora Yarns must report future complaints of sexual harassment to the EEOC during the decree’s term.
“The EEOC takes seriously allegations of sexual harassment, particularly where the harassment involves serious abuse such as sexual assault. We are pleased with the settlement and the fact that Tuscarora Yarns is taking action to prevent future incidents of sexual harassment and retaliation in its workplace,” said Tina Burnside, the supervisory trial attorney who litigated the case for the EEOC.
Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, added, “The EEOC will continue to aggressively prosecute cases where employees are subjected to such severe acts of discrimination.”
Martinez was also represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Charlotte’s Ferguson, Stein, Chambers, Gresham and Sumter law firm.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.