U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Watco, Kansas City Southern Railway Retaliated Against Employee Because of Her Employment Discrimination Suit, Federal Agency Charges
NEW ORLEANS – Watco Companies, Inc. and Kansas City Southern Railway Company, wholly owned by Kansas City Southern (KCS), violated federal law by retaliating against a former employee, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on September 30, 2010. Watco, based in Pittsburg, Kan., is a short-line railroad and provides switching services to other railroads, including Kansas City Southern Railway, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. KCS is one of Watco’s largest and most important clients.
According to the EEOC’s suit (No. 5:10-cv-01515) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana), Watco fired Michelle Chauvin after learning from KCS that Ms. Chauvin had a pending lawsuit against KCS. Ms. Chauvin had previously worked for KCS for sixteen years. In 2005, she filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against KCS. Two years later, in 2007, Watco hired Ms. Chauvin as a Marketing Manager in its Shreveport, Louisiana office. Her responsibilities included working with all of Watco’s customers, including her former employer, KCS. During Ms. Chauvin’s first few months at Watco, her supervisors praised her performance. Nevertheless, after several KCS representatives informed Watco that Ms. Chauvin had a pending lawsuit against KCS, Watco fired her, the suit alleges.
Retaliation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with both companies. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting both companies from engaging in employment discrimination and retaliation. In addition, EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages from Watco.
Keith Hill, Director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office stated, “Employers must be mindful that federal law prohibits them from taking adverse employment actions against employees who oppose discriminatory practices in the workplace.”
“Employees have a right to protest employment discrimination, including filing lawsuits to correct unlawful action, without fearing repercussion in that job or future jobs,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jim Sacher. “This case is especially egregious because Watco admits that it fired Ms. Chauvin because of her lawsuit against KCS, one of its customers. The EEOC will aggressively prosecute such cases of retaliatory discharge.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Anyone who believes he or she has been subjected to a discriminatory employment practice is encouraged to contact the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, which is located in downtown New Orleans at 1555 Poydras Street. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.