LEGAL BRIEF: Austin Foam Plastics Pays $600,000 To Settle EEOC Harassment Suit
AUSTIN - Austin Foam Plastics, Inc., a producer and distributor of corrugated box and cushion packaging, will pay $600,000 to settle a racial harassment, sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on October 15th.
The EEOC's lawsuit (Civil Action No. A-09-CA-180-LY) charged Austin Foam with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting African-American employees to a racially hostile work environment, subjecting two male employees to a sexually hostile work environment and discharging one employee for opposing and reporting the misconduct.
The EEOC said that the harassment included black employees being routinely subjected to discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, insults, racially offensive comments and jokes, cartoons and images which denigrated African-Americans. The EEOC also charged that a female manager sexually harassed male employees by subjecting them to unwelcome sexual comments and unsolicited physical contact of a sexual nature and that she conditioned more favorable terms of employment on acquiescence to her sexual advances and overtures.
Sexual harassment, racial harassment and retaliation all violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The remedies sought by the EEOC include back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the victims, as well as injunctive relief.
“The law requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent and to correct racial and sexual harassment,” said David Rivela, senior trial attorney for the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office. “In addition, the law requires that employers refrain from retaliating against employees who oppose discriminatory conduct. The EEOC will continue to aggressively prosecute cases where employees are subjected to this kind of unlawful treatment in the workplace.”
Judith G. Taylor, supervisory trial attorney of the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office, added, “The EEOC is pleased that AFP has agreed to adopt and implement measures, such as training, to prevent future incidents of racial and sexual harassment.”
Race discrimination has been the most frequent type of charge filed with the EEOC since the agency's opening in 1965. In fiscal year 2009, more than 33,000 charges of race discrimination were filed with EEOC offices nationwide. Further, there were over 1,500 sexual harassment charges filed by males in fiscal year 2009.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.