On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled its lawsuit against Tegra Medical LLC (Tegra) for $240,000, according to a press release.
In July 2020, the EEOC sued Tegra alleging sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, and retaliation. According to the EEOC, Zahira Othman, a former Tegra employee, was sexually harassed by her supervisor and faced retaliation when she reported the harassment.
The EEOC alleged that Ivan Pacheco, Ms. Othman’s manufacturing supervisor, made lewd comments and inappropriately touched Ms. Othman. When Ms. Othman reported the abusive behavior, Tegra did not take appropriate action, according to the EEOC. Before Ms. Othman’s complaint, at least three other female employees made complaints against Mr. Pacheco for inappropriate behavior. Shortly after Ms. Othman complained, another female employee complained to Tegra’s human resource manager about Mr. Pacheco. Despite multiple complaints, the manager denied the existence of previous complaints, according to the EEOC.
Ms. Othman also sought leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for her son shortly after complaining about Mr. Pacheco’s actions. However, Tegra denied her leave request despite receiving documentation from the doctor of Ms. Othman’s son. Because of the denial, Ms. Othman resigned from her position to care for her son. According to the EEOC, “Tegra retaliated against her by denying her request for leave to care for her son under the Family and Medical Leave Act, resulting in her constructive discharge.”
The EEOC sought pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process. However, pre-litigation resolution attempts failed and the EEOC sued Tegra in July 2020. The parties settled shortly after the EEOC sued. According to the consent decree resolving the case, Tegra must pay $240,000 to two women allegedly subject to harassment and retaliation. Tegra will implement an independent hotline for employee complaints and report all complaints of sexual discrimination and retaliation to the EEOC. Tegra will update its policies related to discrimination and investigating complaints of discrimination. Tegra employees will undergo EEO training and Tegra’s human resource department must undergo training (in addition to the EEO training). Finally, under the consent decree, the human resource manager must obtain a senior human resources certification to maintain her position.
“Employers who are aware of sexual harassment in the workplace have a clear duty to act swiftly act to end the harassment,” explained Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. An employer’s failure to end harassment violates federal law. Employers of all types and sizes, regardless of industry, should ensure that they have legitimate and unbiased internal systems designed to identify and address discrimination or vulnerabilities for discriminatory actions to occur. Employers should also ensure they have up-to-date policies and procedures in place so that managers and employees are well-trained regarding anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation rules and regulations.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman have represented companies of all types and sizes in connection with employment litigation matters, including EEOC investigations and Title VII lawsuits. If your company needs assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.