Cleaning Company Fired African-American Employees and White Employee Who Refused to Discriminate, Federal Agency Said
PHILADELPHIA – Matrix, L.L.C., one of the region’s largest cleaning companies, will pay $450,000 to a class of 15 former employees and provide significant relief to settle a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that Matrix officials told white supervisor Barbara Palermi not to hire any more black cleaners to work at a client’s site in Concordville, Pa. When Palermi hired additional black cleaners based on their qualifications to do the job, Matrix dismissed her in retaliation for opposing the company’s racial discrimination. The EEOC alleged that Matrix management officials also discriminated against the African-American cleaners, telling them to sit in the back of the cafeteria during break times and later disallowing them from using the cafeteria at all for their breaks. Matrix later fired all of the employees at the worksite and replaced them with an entirely non-black cleaning crew, the EEOC said in its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-06183.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, and makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for opposing discrimination, including opposing instructions to make hiring decisions based on race. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief to the class of fifteen, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit bars Matrix from engaging in any further race discrimination or retaliation. Matrix is required to train its supervisors and managers about the prohibitions against racial discrimination and retaliation, report to the EEOC regarding against complaints of discrimination or retaliation at the Concordville, Pa., work site and post a remedial notice. The consent decree was approved by the court on January 4, 2011.
“We commend the company for its agreement to carry out the significant equitable relief provided in the consent decree, including providing expansive annual training, which will benefit all company employees,” said District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.
EEOC regional attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “We appreciate Matrix’s cooperation and diligence throughout the negotiation process to resolve this case quickly without engaging in protracted and costly litigation.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.