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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-19-11

EEOC Sues Philips Lighting For Sexual Harassment

Only Female Employee in Philips’ Dallas Warehouse Sexually Harassed by Manager and Co-Workers, Federal Agency Charges

DALLAS  -- Philips Lighting Entertainment, a division of Philips Electronics North  America Corp., subjected a female employee to a barrage of sexual remarks,  touches, and lewd sexual exposure by the manager of her department and  co-workers during her employment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According  to the EEOC, Kewanda Lawson was hired by Philips Lighting Entertainment in May  2007 as a temporary employee and became a permanent Warehouse Lead in September  2007. Lawson was the only female in Philips Lighting’s Dallas warehouse department. Even before  becoming a permanent employee, the EEOC alleges that Lawson experienced  unwelcome sexually vulgar comments, advances, and touches by the warehouse  manager, Trent Bertrand, and by several male warehouse workers. She endured unwanted  touches, requests for sexual relations, money being rubbed on her body, forced  kisses, derogatory names such as “b---h” and “slut.” One employee even exposed  himself to her on the job. Lawson  reported the harassment to management but nothing was done to stop the  harassing conduct or impose timely discipline on the harassers. Ultimately,  Lawson resigned.

“It is  unacceptable and illegal for an employee to have to endure continuous and  unwelcome sex-based comments and conduct while on the job; and even worse, for  a company to fail to act when complaints are made,” said EEOC Senior Trial  Attorney Devika Seth. “A company this  size should have the knowledge and resources to effectively handle complaints  of sexual harassment. In this case,  Phillips failed in its duty to comply with the law.”

The suit,  filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas  Division (Civil Action No. 3:11-CV-02431-O), was brought pursuant to Title VII  of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the  workplace and requires an employer to prevent and promptly correct sexual  harassment. The EEOC seeks compensatory  and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief. The agency filed suit after investigating the  case, finding reasonable cause to believe that the alleged discrimination took  place, and first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

“We would  have liked to resolve this case short of litigation, but sometimes law  enforcement is needed to enlighten employers,” said Robert A. Canino, regional  attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “This facility of Philips  Lighting has apparently been willing to operate in the dark with regard to its  duty and responsibility to provide a healthy working environment for its  employees.”

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