Federal Agency Clams Female Employee Was Pressured to Enter Into Sham Marriage
DALLAS – Courtesy Building Services, a janitorial and maintenance service located in West Dallas with an office in Fort Worth, violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today. The EEOC alleges that as part of the unlawful work environment, the employee was pressured to marry a stranger from Thailand to promote his efforts toward citizenship.
According to the lawsuit, Operations Manager Melissa Gaona was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment starting in 2005. In addition to lewd remarks said to her or in her presence by management personnel, she was asked by a manager to enter into marriage with a stranger, a non-citizen, to enhance his opportunity to achieve U.S. citizenship.
“Enduring supervisors’ comments about women’s bodies and accounts of visits to the local strip clubs shouldn’t be a job requirement,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Toby Wosk Costas. “And pressuring a worker to enter into a marriage she doesn’t want, for ulterior motives, is simply unconscionable. It adds up to a hostile work environment that certainly violates federal laws against discrimination.”
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:10-cv-1911 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC seeks relief for Gaona as well as injunctive relief, including a court order to prevent the company from engaging in similar discriminatory conduct in the future; compensatory damages for emotional harm; and punitive damages to deter future acts of employment discrimination.
Regional Attorney Robert Canino of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office added, “This is definitely not the garden-variety sexual harassment case -- compelling employees to marry is a new twist. Asking women to marry as a part of their job duties or terms of employment is not only illegal under Title VII, but if the idea is to circumvent the immigration laws of the United States, the discriminatory treatment also puts the employees themselves in jeopardy of violating federal laws.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.