U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Federal Agency Charged Knoxville-Area Tree Company Failed to Pay Overtime Wages to Hispanic Employees Due to Their National Origin
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Baird Tree Company, Inc., a tree-trimming service company based in Jacksboro, Tenn., and operating in eastern and middle Tennessee, has agreed to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of 19 Hispanic former employees, the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Baird Tree violated federal law by maintaining a policy and practice of failing to pay Hispanic employees overtime pay while paying non-Hispanic American workers such wage premiums. The EEOC also charged that the company further violated the law when it threatened to fire employees after they complained about the wage discrimination.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil No. 3:13-cv-00570) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division, on Sept. 26, 2013 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In the two-year consent decree entered today by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Varlan, Baird Tree agreed to pay $19,000 in compensatory damages to the claimants for the discrimination. Back pay damages for the claimants' lost overtime wages had previously been settled by the company in separate litigation.
In addition to the award of compensatory damages, the decree enjoins Baird Tree from engaging in future unlawful national origin discrimination and retaliation against any employee. Further, the decree requires the company to provide training on wage discrimination for its senior management officials and regularly submit copies of its overtime payroll records to the EEOC. Finally, Baird Tree agreed to EEOC inspection and copying of records regarding any employee complaints related to national origin, wage discrimination or retaliation during the decree's term.
"The EEOC is committed to eradicating national origin and wage discrimination and protecting vulnerable workers who courageously oppose such unlawful practices," said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC's Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Tennessee, Arkansas and northern Mississippi. "This consent decree ensures that Hispanic employees will receive the same pay for overtime work as all other employees."
Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.