U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Black Employees Subjected to Egregious Racial Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
CLEVELAND - Mel-K Management Company will pay $80,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a federal harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the lawsuit, Mel-K's general manager at the Chagrin Falls, Ohio location frequently called black employees names such as "n----r", "ho'" and "black b----h," and regularly treated African-American employees less favorably than white employees, such as allowing white employees more breaks than black ones.
The EEOC also charged that Mel-K subjected a lower-level manager, Sabrina McHenry, to both a racially and sexually hostile environment. When McHenry opposed the harassment, Mel-K unlawfully retaliated against her by transferring her to an undesirable work location culminating in her termination, the EEOC said.
Subjecting employees to a hostile work environment based on race or sex violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Title VII also forbids employers from retaliating against employees who oppose harassment or discrimination. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Mel-K Management Company, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-02155) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $44,500 in monetary relief to McHenry and $35,500 in monetary relief to other affected employees, the two-year consent decree settling the suit enjoins Mel-K from discriminating in race or sex discrimination and from engaging in unlawful retaliation in the future. Mel-K will implement and disseminate an anti-harassment policy and will provide anti-harassment training to all of its employees. Mel-K will also post a notice regarding the settlement.
"Subjecting employees to harassment based on their race or sex is not only an affront to their dignity, it is a blatant violation of federal law," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Employees have the right to work in an environment free from racial and sexual slurs and epithets. No employee should be fired, or otherwise retaliated against, as punishment for opposing unlawful harassment."
The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.