U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Cruise Company Fired Employee for Supporting Sexual Harassment Claim, Federal Agency Charged
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis-based cruise company American Queen Steamboat Company will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a lawsuit charging retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that in May 2015, American Queen fired a cruise director in retaliation for his submitting a written complaint about the ongoing sexual harassment of a co-worker. The cruise director's complaint specifically faulted a high-ranking manager, a friend of the alleged harasser, for his handling of the victim's initial sexual harassment complaint. That high-ranking manager then confronted the cruise director about his complaint and threatened his job. When the cruise director reported the retaliatory conduct to his own supervisor, his supervisor took no action, and American Queen subsequently fired the cruise director.
Retaliation for opposing the sexual harassment of a co-worker violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. American Queen Steamboat Company, Civil Action No. 17-cv-02669) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
On December 15, 2017, Judge Sheryl H. Lipman entered a consent decree resolving the case. In addition to a $50,000 award for lost wages and other damages, the decree requires multiple steps to prevent future discrimination, including an injunction against further retaliation, Web-based and live anti-discrimination training, and monitoring by the EEOC.
"The EEOC is committed to protecting employees who stand up and complain when they see a co-worker being unlawfully sexually harassed," said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "We are pleased that this employer will be taking steps to ensure that its managers are fully aware of their obligation not to retaliate and that employees are protected from retaliation in the future."
Kevin Berry, the EEOC's New York District director, said, "2017 has been a groundbreaking year for exposing sexual harassment in the workplace. For sexual harassment to end, we need to make sure that the victims of harassment and their allies are not penalized for coming forward."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.