Male Owner Sexually Harassed Female Employees, Fired Female Employee for Complaining About Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
GREENSBORO, N.C. – A Mount Airy, N.C.-based freight transportation and delivery company violated federal law by subjecting female employees to a hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit against Mountain River Trucking Company, Inc., Della Francis and other female employees were sexually harassed by the company’s president and owner from approximately September 2007 through March 2008. Specifically, from October through November 2007, the owner made explicit sexual comments to Francis on a near-daily basis, including comments about the size of his private parts and his sexual prowess. He also told stories about sexual encounters he had with women, including his wife. The owner also showed Francis photos on his computer of nude women he wanted to have sex with. After Francis complained about the harassment, the company fired her, the EEOC said. According to the complaint, at least one other woman was also sexually harassed by the owner.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the lawsuit, the EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the affected women, as well other relief. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Mountain River Trucking Company, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-00600), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
The EEOC seeks monetary damages for Francis and other similarly situated female employees who were subjected to the harassment. The suit also seeks an injunction to prevent Mountain River from maintaining a sexually hostile work environment and from retaliating against employees who oppose unlawful discrimination.
“Employers are liable for harassment by a company’s owner or high-ranking official,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Federal law recognizes such harassment as more serious than harassment by co-workers because the company’s 'higher-ups' are involved, and company policies are unlikely to achieve a remedy. The EEOC will continue to make sure that employers fulfill their obligations to prevent and correct such discrimination.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.