U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Despite Earlier Consent Decree Barring Religious Discrimination and Retaliation, Security Guard Fired After Complaining of Coworker’s Threat, Federal Agency Charges
NEW YORK – Grand Central Partnership, Inc. (GCP), a not-for-profit developer of real estate, offices, and facilities around the Grand Central Terminal area in New York, violated a consent decree and committed new illegal acts when it fired a black Rastafarian security officer in retaliation for his complaints about threats of violence and racism, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Friday.
According to the suit, in 2009, EEOC and GCP settled an earlier lawsuit about GCP’s treatment of Rastafarian and Caribbean security officers with a consent decree filed in federal court. In that settlement, the parties had agreed that GCP would offer accommodations for the religious practices of the Rastafarian security officers and not retaliate against Rastafarian security officers for their participation in the lawsuit. As part of that settlement, GCP is still subject to supervision by the federal court in that action.
The new lawsuit claims that in 2010, the hostility toward Rastafarians at GCP erupted again when a non-Caribbean security officer threatened to shoot and kill a group of Rastafarian officers. After a white security supervisor made light of the physical threats made to the Rastafarian security officers, one Rastafarian security officer objected to the supervisor’s conduct and his past discrimination. Additionally, he called the supervisor a racist for referring in the past to a group of Rastafarians with the “N word” and threatening to stand in the way of their getting paid for their work. After the security officer complained to the supervisor and telephoned EEOC, GCP fired him about three months later.
This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from retaliation when they complain about employment discrimination based on race or religion. It additionally is a breach of the original consent decree filed in 2009. The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No.11 Civ. 9682 SDNY, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, only after attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement.
Elizabeth Grossman, Regional Attorney of EEOC’s New York District Office, said, “EEOC is particularly concerned when it obtains a consent decree to stop violations of the law and the employer turns around and ignores the settlement by reverting to the illegal behavior.
We will pursue vigorously retaliation claims against employers whose managers would rather not comply with court orders and fire individuals who object to threats based on their religion and bias based on race.”
“Retaliation against an employee who objects to threats of violence against his co-religionists and then objects to racism will not be tolerated. EEOC’s lawsuit should make it clear that an employer may not blame the victim when it loses control of its managers and employees,” Michael Ranis, a trial attorney in EEOC's New York District Office, said.
EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.