U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Temporary Employees Subjected To A Sexually and Racially Hostile Work Environment And Subsequently Discharged In Retaliation For Complaining, Federal Agency Charged
WASHINGTON, Pa. - Labor Ready Northeast, Inc. (Labor Ready) will pay $72,500 and provide substantial injunctive relief to settle a race and sex harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy entered a consent decree on November 9, 2016 settling the case for both monetary and injunctive relief. EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. EEOC v. Labor Ready Northeast, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:15-CV-01251-CRE, on September 25, 2015, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Division.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Labor Ready's Washington, PA branch sent two female employees to a single-day work assignment in Metz, West Virginia at the job site of one of Labor Ready's customers, Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration. While they were at the job site, two of the customer's male employees subjected the women to offensive race and sex-biased comments, including racial epithets and remarks directed toward one of the women, who is multiracial, and overtly sexual statements; groping one woman's breasts, and attempting to physically intimidate the two women. EEOC also charged that the two women made multiple complaints to Labor Ready about the harassing actions of the customer's employees and the Washington branch manager's inaction regarding those complaints, but instead of investigating the women's complaints and taking corrective action, Labor Ready retaliated against them by denying them a promised work assignment and firing them for their complaints.
Harassment based on race and sex violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also forbids employers from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees for opposing discriminatory harassment, including making harassment complaints.
In addition to monetary payment, the Consent Decree requires that Labor Ready's procedures and its training for certain personnel concerning harassment complaints must contain specific components, such as requiring staff to personally investigate allegations made against customers and their employees regardless of whether the customer has investigated, including interviewing customer employees; ensuring that customers undertake appropriate corrective action to prevent their employees from harassing Labor Ready employees and that Labor Ready will take various corrective actions against customers who fail to do so; monitoring the work environment after corrective actions have been taken; and corporate auditing of harassment investigations and proposed actions based on those investigations. In addition, Labor Ready will be required to make reports to EEOC concerning future harassment complaints, resulting investigations, and remedial actions taken in response to them.
"This settlement should remind employers that they have an obligation to take prompt and effective measures to stop harassment in the workplace. If the employer instead does the wrong thing and terminates employees who complain about harassment or discrimination, then EEOC will take action," said District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office.
EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, "Temporary workers are among the most vulnerable workers in our economy, and the staffing industry must recognize that it has a clear, non-delegable duty under Title VII to protect workers placed at customer worksites from harassment and other forms of discrimination. The staffing industry owes a duty of care to its workers, not deference to its customers. We are pleased that Labor Ready cooperated with EEOC to settle this matter with decree terms intended to protect Labor Ready's employees."
The Philadelphia District Office of EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
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