Federal Agency Alleges Latina Janitor Propositioned by Direct Supervisor, Fired After She Refused Him
SAN JOSE, Calif. - M.A. Jones, Inc., a Gilroy-based janitorial contractor, doing business as Cleaning Services, violated federal law by allowing a supervisor to sexually harass a Latina employee and then firing her for opposing his conduct, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Virginia Medina, a woman of Mexican national origin, was sexually propositioned by her supervisor. The agency's investigation found that Medina's supervisor made sexually explicit comments to her, and, after taking her to an isolated area, attempted to initiate sexual activity. Medina repeatedly attempted to report the harassment to upper management, including the company's owner, but the company never responded to her phone calls and voicemails, and never received her office visits. Less than three months after she refused her supervisor's advances, Medina was fired.
Employers are required to prevent and remedy sexual harassment and are prohibited from retaliation against an employee who reports harassment, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Case No. 5:15-cv-04469) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division), after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks lost wages, monetary damages including compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages, and injunctive relief including training on anti-discrimination laws.
EEOC's San Francisco Acting Regional Attorney Jon Peck said, "Workers in the janitorial industry, comprised of many immigrant women often working alone at night, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. EEOC has made a priority of defending the civil rights of vulnerable workers and will seek the full extent of legal relief for Ms. Medina."
EEOC San Francisco District Director William Tamayo said, "The facts of this case suggest the employer's sexual harassment reporting policies were, at best, wholly ineffective and, at worst, actively ignored. The law requires an employer to take effective and immediate action when put on notice of harassment, especially at the hands of a manager. EEOC cannot accomplish its mission of equal employment opportunity unless workers feel secure in their right to speak out against discrimination without the fear of retaliation."
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.