U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Manufacturing Company Fired Engineer for Filing Religious and Disability Discrimination Charge, Federal Agency Says
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Turner Machine Company retaliated against an employee by firing him because he filed a discrimination charge, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Ken Woodard worked as a mechanical engineer at Turner's facility in Smyrna, Tenn. Woodard had over 20 years of experience in mechanical engineering when Turner hired him in June 2011. Problems began for Woodard when he voiced concerns about mandatory employee meetings called "huddles," which occurred every morning. At the huddles, employees would discuss milestones occurring in their personal lives including their religious affiliations and church activities. Woodard opposed this practice, and subsequently filed a religious and disability discrimination charge. According to the lawsuit, the charge was resolved through an informal mediation process. The EEOC claims that Turner later retaliated against Woodard by firing him.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Turner Machine Company, Civil Action No. 3:14-cv-01115) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Turner Machine Company from retaliating against its employees, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Woodard.
"Employers should never penalize employees for exercising their rights, and they cannot fire an employee because he filed a charge with the EEOC," said EEOC District Director Katharine W. Kores. "That is unlawful retaliation, and the EEOC will take vigorous action to remedy this form of discrimination."
Turner Machine Company, with 30-40 employees, is a manufacturing firm and custom machine builder whose principal products are automated machines for automobile assembly lines.
The Memphis District Office of the EEOC oversees Tennessee, Arkansas and parts of Mississippi.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the website at www.eeoc.gov.