Only Female Employee in Dallas Warehouse Sexually Harassed by Manager, Co-Workers, Federal Agency Charged
DALLAS - Louisville, Ky.-based Genlyte Thomas Group, LLC, doing business as Philips Entertainment Lighting, will pay $30,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the company subjected former employee KeWanda Lawson to a sexually hostile work environment.
According to the EEOC's suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (3:11-CV-2431-O), Lawson was hired by Philips Entertainment Lighting in May 2007, as a temporary employee and became a permanent warehouse lead within just a few months. Lawson was the only female in Philips's Dallas warehouse department. The EEOC alleged that Lawson experienced unwelcome and sexually vulgar comments, sexual advances and touches by the warehouse manager, Trent Bertrand, and other co-workers even before she became a permanent employee.
According to the EEOC, Lawson endured unwanted touches, requests for sexual relations, money being rubbed on her body, forced kisses, derogatory names, being called a "b---h" and "slut," and even having an employee expose his private parts 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 had to resign.
Sexual harassment 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.
"As the only female employee in the defendant's Dallas warehouse, Ms. Lawson was targeted for this crude and disturbing behavior by those with whom she worked," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Devika Seth, the lead attorney on the case. "Women in traditionally male-dominated fields do not leave their right to work free from harassment at the warehouse door."
Under the settlement, which was filed by the court as a consent decree on September 24, 2012, the company will pay Lawson $30,000 in compensatory damages. Philips also agreed to extensive corrective measures, including training for all its employees at its Dallas facility regarding the law against sexual harassment and the proper procedures regarding investigations of complaints. The company also agreed to post a notice at this facility (including its warehouse) for two years to inform employees of their rights under the law. Further, the defendant will provide a copy of its anti-harassment policy and procedures to all new hires, current employees and supervisors at its Dallas facility.
"As can be seen from the facts of this case, sexual harassment is not simply a matter of innocuous flirtation," said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office. "We will combat nasty, offensive behavior that interposes a barrier between female employees and their opportunities to earn an income."
Janet V. Elizondo, the EEOC's district director in Dallas, added, "We are glad that Ms. Lawson came forward and asserted her right to work in a harassment-free environment. When an individual brings a case like this to our attention, our investigation will look not only at the immediate harm, but at the 'big picture' problems."
The EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.