EEOC Alleged Employee Was Illegally Fired for Raising Issue of Race Discrimination
PORTLAND, Ore. – A Portland-based seafood processor and distributor with hundreds of employees in Clackamas, Ore., will pay $85,000 and take corrective measures to settle a lawsuit for retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s suit asserts that in June 2007, Pacific Seafood Company Inc. and Pacific Seafood Group, Inc. illegally fired Jesus Perez, a warehouse worker, after he spoke to management about racial discrimination. When Perez told his supervisor that he feared he had received a smaller raise than his non-Hispanic co-worker because of his race, he was told that if he was going to accuse the company of discrimination, they “should part ways.” Perez’s final paycheck was issued that day, the EEOC said.
“I was shocked when they fired me,” Perez said. “After working there for several years with a good record, I thought they would at least hear me out when I raised my complaint -- not fire me on the spot. It has been a long road, but I’m proud that I stood up for my rights. Hopefully my actions and this lawsuit will help make Pacific Seafood a safer place for other employees.”
Retaliation against an employee -- for opposing discrimination, assisting others in filing charges, or participating in an EEOC investigations or subsequent lawsuit as a witness -- violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed this suit (EEOC v. Pacific Seafood Co., Inc. CV-08-1143-ST in U.S. Federal Court for the District of Oregon) after an investigation conducted by EEOC Investigator Omar Verduzco and first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
According to the terms of the settlement, Pacific Seafood agreed to pay Perez $85,000. The company will also redraft its policies on discrimination and retaliation, train all employees about the laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and retaliation and voluntarily report to the EEOC on its handling of discrimination complaints for the next five years.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “Employers have a duty to promptly and effectively respond to complaints of workplace discrimination. When employers fail to take such complaints seriously, or, as in this case, retaliate against an employee who had a reasonable belief of discrimination, the EEOC will take action.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “As part of the settlement, Pacific Seafood must train its management and human resources representatives in anti-discrimination policies and create an environment where employees can report unlawful discrimination without fear of retaliation.”
Baldonado also noted that retaliation cases represent one of the fastest-growing types of charges filed with the EEOC. In Fiscal Year 2010, retaliation charge filings across the country increased more than 6 percent over the last five years to a record number of 36,258, now accounting for the most common type of discrimination charge.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.