Male Employees, Particularly Black Men, Were Consistently Abused and Degraded by Owners of Fish Market, Federal Agency Charges
NEW YORK – M. Slavin & Sons, a retail and wholesale fish market, violated federal law by creating a hostile work environment for male employees, including physical and verbal sexual harassment and offensive and degrading comments based on race and national origin, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, some of the owners and managers of M. Slavin & Sons subjected male employees, particularly black employees, including both black Americans and at least one immigrant from Africa, to ongoing harassment. The misconduct included groping their buttocks, putting fish hooks into their buttocks and unnecessarily rubbing their bodies into the employees when passing them by. The owners and managers also made numerous crude, obscene sexual and/or racist comments. One owner used the term “n----r” and another manager made comments such as “African b-----d” and “Let me see you run like you are in Africa.”
In addition to the Brooklyn location which was the focus of the EEOC charge and investigation, the company operates other locations, including Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, Rhode Island and Virginia. The original complainant, the named harassers and the class of claimants all worked at the Brooklyn location.
The lawsuit also alleges that employees left these positions because of the harassment and that the man who originally complained faced retaliation. To punish him for complaining, the EEOC said, managers instructed other employees not to speak to him, yelled at him when he spoke to others, assigned him more frequently to garbage duty and sent him home when he did speak to others.
All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation. The EEOC filed suit, CV 09-5330, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, only after attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement.
Sunu P. Chandy, a senior trial attorney in the EEOC's New York office, said, “The stunning facts of this case remind us of an ugly time in our nation’s history. The actions of these white owners, who subjected particularly men of color to horrendous physical sexual harassment and racial comments, must be challenged. When the employees said that they would fight back against the abuse, the owners consistently told them that no one would listen to their complaints and that no one would believe them. This suit shows the owners were wrong.”
Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of the EEOC New York District Office, said, “The EEOC is determined to stop sexual harassment whether faced by men or by women. The objectives of this lawsuit will be to obtain fair compensation for those employees who suffered harassment and to implement policies that will help prevent discrimination.”
The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.