Nightshift Janitors Left Vulnerable to Supervisor's Abuse, Federal Agency Charges
OAKLAND, Calif. - Goodwill Industries of the East Bay Area and affiliate Calidad Industries violated federal law by allowing sexual harassment and disability discrimination against nightshift janitors contracted to clean the Oakland Federal Building and retaliating against managers who tried to help these employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the suit, a nightshift supervisor routinely sexually harassed at least five women employed by Goodwill/Calidad's janitorial operations under a federal government contract. Most of these workers were employed through a program providing jobs for people with disabilities. In addition to inappropriate touching, leering, propositions and intrusive questions about these women's sex lives, the supervisor groped his genitals in front of female janitors and others so often that federal building employees nicknamed him "Mr. Bojangles." Despite repeated reports, Goodwill/Calidad failed to take any effective action to protect these vulnerable workers.
EEOC's investigation also revealed that the same supervisor falsified mandated time studies, denying the workers with disabilities pay increases based on their actual performance. EEOC also charges that two managers were unfairly criticized and disciplined in retaliation for supporting the women's sexual harassment claims, and one manager was compelled to resign.
Sexual harassment is illegal gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which also prohibits employers from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees for opposing discriminatory harassment, including making harassment complaints. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits compensation discrimination on the basis of disability. After investigating and attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, EEOC filed suit in the Oakland Division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (EEOC v. Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay and Calidad Industries, Civil Action No. 4:16-CV-07093). EEOC seeks lost wages plus compensatory and punitive damages for the harm suffered by the workers, as well as an injunction to prevent further violations.
"EEOC vigorously defends those who speak out against discrimination they see in the workplace, as well as those who are harassed," EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Linda Ordonio-Dixon said. "Here, the nightshift janitors trusted a newly hired manager with their harassment complaints after years of inaction. When Goodwill/Calidad failed to respond appropriately, that manager helped the women file EEOC charges and suffered retaliation for doing the right thing."
EEOC's San Francisco District Director William R. Tamayo added, "As shown in a recent Frontline video on female night shift janitors, sexual harassment can become a pervasive problem when companies fail to curb supervisors who abuse their power over vulnerable workers. It's unfortunate that a program designed to assist workers with severe disabilities to secure a foothold in the workplace instead permitted a supervisor to exploit his authority over workers made more vulnerable by their disabilities and the isolation of working the night shift."
According to its website, Calidad Industries is a subsidiary of Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay and provides vocational training and employment to those with significant disabilities.
Protecting vulnerable workers from harassment, disparate pay, and other discriminatory policies is one of the priorities identified in EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.