U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Lawton Store Fired Worker for Testifying on Behalf of Discrimination Victim, Federal Agency Charged
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Goodwill Industries will pay $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle a long-standing lawsuit FOR retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Goodwill retaliated against a worker at its Lawton, Okla., store, Mary Goulet, by firing her after she testified on behalf of another Goodwill employee in a previous federal sex and age discrimination lawsuit.
Under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), it is illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of their participation as a witness in another person's employment discrimination lawsuit. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (Civil Case No.: 11-CV-1043-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit, which was approved by Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti, provides for injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination, including notification to employees, revision and dissemination of anti-discrimination policies, and live training on anti-retaliation law, in addition to the $100,000 monetary award.
One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the agency to preserve individuals' access to the legal system, which includes prohibiting employer practices which might impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts.
"Our employment discrimination laws depend on the ability of witnesses to freely provide information to the courts and to the EEOC," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Jeff Lee. "American jurisprudence is based on that principle. The EEOC will do whatever is necessary to ensure that witnesses can be confident that when they testify in employment discrimination proceedings, there will be no reprisals against them."
Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC's St. Louis District, which has jurisdiction in Oklahoma, added, "Employers should take note that employees have a protected right to report discrimination and to testify about what they have witnessed."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.