Female Firefighter Subjected to Hostile Work Environment and Disciplined for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged
HONOLULU, Hawaii – ITT Corporation, a New York-based high-technology engineering and manufacturing company, will pay $215,000 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 a female firefighter employed at the company’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii, was sexually harassed and that she, along with a male co-worker, were retaliated against for complaining about the harassment.
Male co-workers and supervisors subjected the female firefighter to overtly sexual remarks and drawings, according to the EEOC. Despite her objections, they also openly watched pornographic programs and videos at work in her presence. Although she complained about the sexual harassment on several occasions, management failed to recognize the problem and respond in a manner consistent with federal law. Instead, the firefighter was reassigned, disciplined and instructed to “get along.” Meanwhile, a male co-worker who assisted with her internal complaint was also reassigned in retaliation for opposing the harassment, said the EEOC.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against ITT in July 2010 in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. ITT Corporation, CV 10-00363-HG-LEK) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
As part of the settlement, ITT entered into a three-year consent decree providing for monetary relief for the two victims. The company will also create an outreach fund to actively recruit females into firefighter positions at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. The decree also requires live interactive training for all personnel assigned to Pacific Missile Range Facility operations on laws against discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The company will also administer internal policies on the handling of complaints about such misconduct. ITT will also designate an equal employment opportunity (EEO) compliance officer to assist with these efforts. The EEOC will monitor ITT’s compliance with the decree and its handling of any sexual harassment and/or retaliation complaints received at the Pacific Missile Range Facility during the decree’s duration.
“We commend ITT for entering into an early resolution and agreeing to the breadth of relief remedies,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction over Hawaii. “We encourage other industries which have historically low female representation to ensure an environment with equal employment opportunities.”
Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “Employers owe it to their workers to ensure a working environment free of unlawful harassment – or risk liability. Retaliation against those who report harassment or discrimination chills others from coming forward and serves to validate illegal behavior that can only intensify if it goes unchecked.”
According to its website, ITT Corporation employs over 40,000 people around the world in three vital markets: water and fluids management; global defense and security; and motion and flow control technology. ITT is also one of the largest employers on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.