AIKEN, S.C. – The company that operates a Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel in Aiken, S.C., violated federal law by firing two employees, one as retaliation for complaining about discrimination and the other because it mistakenly believed she was doing so, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
According to the EEOC’s suit, NAS of Aiken, LLC employed Sharon Green as executive director of housekeeping and Connie Hankinson as a housekeeper. In April 2007, Green complained about treatment towards African-American employees that she believed to be discriminatory. The suit further alleges that following Green’s complaints, she was suspended and that on April 18, 2007, the company discharged her in retaliation.
Further, the EEOC said, the company fired Connie Hankinson because it mistakenly believed that she was trying to obtain information that would support Green’s retaliation claims against the company. Hankinson was coming to work to deliver a doctor’s note to support her own absence from work, but managers had been falsely informed that she was coming to gather evidence to support Green. Hankinson was discharged because of this mistaken belief, the EEOC said.
Retaliation against employees for complaining about discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Aiken Division (EEOC v. NAS of Aiken, LLC d/b/a Fairfield Inn & Suites, Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-01665-MBS -PJG) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.
The lawsuit seeks monetary relief for Green and Hankinson and an injunction enjoining NAS of Aiken from engaging in further retaliation against employees based on their opposition to unlawful employment practices or employment practices which the employee reasonably believes to be unlawful under the federal statutes enforced by the EEOC.
“The anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII are indispensable to the attainment of a workplace free of discrimination,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Workers are doing their employer a favor by reporting unlawful conduct and they should never be punished for it.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) originally investigated Green’s and Hankinson’s charges. The SCHAC works with the EEOC in investigating charges of employment discrimination. These charges raise claims under South Carolina law as well as federal laws enforced by the EEOC. Further information about SCHAC is available on its web site at www.state.sc.us/schac.