U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
EEOC Said Retailer Created Hostile Environment for Female and Hispanic Workers
BALTIMORE – Blockbuster, Inc. has entered into a consent judgment requiring it to pay over $2 million to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged the Dallas-based global entertainment retailer with subjecting female temporary employees to sexual harassment, retaliating against them for resisting sexual advances and complaining, and subjecting Hispanic temporary employees to national origin and race harassment and other discrimination. The litigation concerned events that occurred in 2004 and 2005 at a distribution center in Gaithersburg, Md.
In its suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (EEOC v. Blockbuster Inc., Case No. RWT-07-CV-2612), the EEOC charged that the male supervisory staff engaged in and condoned the harassment of a class of seven female employees, four of whom are Hispanic. The EEOC charged that the incidents of harassment committed by Blockbuster supervisors included repeated requests for sexual favors; yelling; insults; threats; unwelcome sex-related questioning; offense racial remarks; touching women’s intimate body areas; and other discriminatory conduct. This pervasive and unlawful conduct culminated in the denial of work hours, discriminatory firings, forced resignations and other discriminatory actions, according to the EEOC.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Blockbuster filed a bankruptcy petition during the pendency of this case, which remains pending in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and it has discontinued its former business operations.
“This case should act as a warning to all employers who use staffing agency personnel,” said EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence, whose jurisdiction includes Maryland. “Employers who are customers of staffing agencies have a responsibility to protect their temporary workers from unlawful discrimination. Too frequently, such employers fail to create systems to prevent and detect abuse of temporary workers and fail to respond forcefully to it. Those employers do so at their peril.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.