U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Jury Finds Employer Refused to Promote Employee Because She Was Female
ATLANTA - An Atlanta jury has awarded $500,000 against a Westerville, Ohio-based warehouse and distribution company for failing to promote a female to a supervisory position, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit (Case No. 1:10-CV-03132), filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Exel, Inc. violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to promote Contrice Travis to an inventory supervisor position in 2008.
At the four-day trial, the EEOC presented evidence that male employees were routinely promoted after verbally requesting consideration for open positions, while Travis, who the EEOC said was indisputably recognized as the most knowledgeable in inventory control, was denied the inventory supervisor position recently vacated by her supervisor. Travis's former supervisor testified that when he recommended Travis for the position, the general manager informed him that he would never put a woman in that position.
The jury also heard evidence of the company's duplicity towards Travis -- for example, that while Travis was told the inventory supervisor position would not be filled, the male selected for the position was told by a management and human resources official that the position would be filled, but that he would be selected only if he kept it a secret. The selectee, Michel Pooler, testified that Travis was later required to train him because he had no inventory experience whatsoever.
The jury awarded Travis $25,000 in compensatory damages and $475,000 in punitive damages for Exel's conduct in this matter. The court will also award back pay to Travis.
"This verdict is a blow against sex discrimination and reaffirms that women should be allowed the full opportunity to advance in an organization based on merit," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. "The EEOC will explore every opportunity to resolve a matter informally, but, as we have demonstrated repeatedly, we will try a case to verdict if necessary."
Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC's Atlanta District Office, added, "The secrecy surrounding the job selection suggested that discrimination was afoot. There was no question Ms. Travis deserved to be promoted over the person who was selected."
The EEOC's lead attorney at trial, Steven Wagner, said, "The people who were supposed to protect Travis's rights failed her. The company's human resources department took the side of the wrongdoer over the victim by telling Travis to transfer rather than investigate her complaints of sex discrimination."
The Atlanta District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Georgia and portions of South Carolina. Further information about the EEOC is available on its
web site at www.eeoc.gov.