U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Owner Abused Women in Popular Cake Shop, Federal Agency Charges
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Early Bird Management Group, LLC, doing business as ABC Cake Shop & Bakery in Albuquerque, violated federal law by subjecting a group of women to sexual harassment and forcing some women who could not tolerate the harassment to resign, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on September 7, 2011.
In its suit, the EEOC said that one of the owners of ABC Cake subjected Olivia Gatwood, Haven Avila, Maureen Roskom and a class of women to sexual harassment. The women, including some teenage hires, were subjected to pervasive sexual comments and innuendo and unwelcome touching or attempted touching of their bodies, which created a hostile work environment for them. The EEOC also alleged that some women who could not tolerate the sexual harassment were forced to quit their jobs.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico (EEOC v. Early Bird Management Group, LLC, Civil Action No. 1: 11-cv-00799) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
“We continue to see a significant number of class sexual harassment cases throughout our district, including claims involving smaller employers like ABC Cake,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. “We are particularly concerned when owners or officers at the highest levels of companies are involved in harassing vulnerable teenagers. The EEOC will prosecute such cases vigorously.”
The lawsuit asks the court to order ABC Cake to provide all the affected women with appropriate relief, including back wages for those forced to resign; compensatory and punitive damages; and a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further gender-discriminatory practice. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that eradicate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
EEOC Deputy District Director Elizabeth Cadle said, “Our investigation revealed that the owner of this small business engaged in sexual harassment that happened so frequently that some women just could not take it anymore and had to quit rather than continue working for someone who not only failed to protect them but actually preyed upon them. Employers of all sizes have an important responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.