Albuquerque Firm's Management Directed and Encouraged the Abuse of Over 50 Male Employees for More Than a Decade, Federal Agency Charged
ALBUQUERQUE -- Pitre Inc., an Albuquerque car dealership on Eagle Ranch Road, has agreed to settle a same-sex sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employ-ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for over $2 million and a very strong consent decree, the agency announced today.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged a former lot manager, James Gallegos, under the direction of Charles Ratliff, Jr., then general manager, with subjecting a class of men to egregious forms of sexual harassment, including shocking sexual comments, frequent solicitations for oral sex, and regular touching, grabbing, and biting of male workers on their buttocks and genitals. The EEOC also alleged that Pitre retaliated against male employees who objected to the sexually hostile work environment. During the pendency of the lawsuit, the retaliatory actions of Pitre raised such concern that a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against Pitre, prohibiting the dealership and all of its agents from threatening or engaging in retaliatory actions against case participants [Docket No. 46].
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, which includes harassment of individuals of the same sex. When an employer disciplines, terminates, or takes other punitive measures against an employee for objecting to workplace discrimination, the employer further violates Title VII's anti-retaliation provision. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Pitre Inc. d.b.a. Pitre Buick/Pontiac, CIV No. 11-00875 BB/CG, in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
This case represents the largest litigation settlement in the history of the EEOC's Albuquerque Area Office. Over 50 men are expected to receive relief through the decree. In addition to the substantial monetary relief, the decree prohibits Pitre from discriminating or retaliating against its employees, and requires Pitre to have policies and practices that will provide its employees with a work environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation, evaluate their managers on their compliance with anti-discrimination laws, and hire a monitor to oversee its efforts to provide a harassment-free workplace. Pitre must also provide regular anti-discrimination training to its employees and managers, and report other discrimination complaints to the EEOC for the duration of the decree.
"This settlement serves to remedy the egregious sexual harassment that the EEOC alleged the men were subjected to by Pitre," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. "It also raises awareness that all employees, male and female, are entitled to work in an environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation."
Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office said, "Managers cannot promote and encourage illegal sexual harassment or retaliation in workplaces. Where managers fail to maintain an environment free of discrimination, it is the employer's responsibility to correct the violations and prevent other violations from occurring. As emphasized by the preliminary injunction, men who have the courage to complain must not suffer retaliation for their efforts to prevent further harassment."
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Christina Vigil added, "It is shocking that such egregious harass-ment could have continued under the nose of management for over ten years. The debilitating stigma that is still attached to male sexual harassment cases made it difficult for men to come forward to report. However, a couple of brave men did come forward, which is what has helped resolve the issues in this workplace."
Albuquerque Area Director Derick Newton said, "Unfortunately, in New Mexico, we continue to see many serious cases of sexual harassment and retaliation. Employers have a legal duty to stop all sexual harassment and they must never retaliate against the brave employees who speak up and report this sort of misconduct."
The EEOC was represented by EEOC trial attorneys Christina Vigil and William Moench.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.