EEOC Charges Berry Services Fired Harassment Victim for Complaining
NEW ORLEANS - A Metairie, La., transportation service violated federal law by creating a sexually hostile work environment for a female employee and then fired her in retaliation for complaining, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit recently filed.
The EEOC’s suit(Civil Action No. 09-6603,filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana)charged Berry Services, Inc., with subjecting female bus driver Lakisha Baker, to repeated unwelcome touching, sexually explicit remarks and jokes, and requests for sexual favors by its owner. Baker made clear that the behavior was unwanted, but the harassment continued. In addition, the EEOC says, the owner fired Baker after she refused to engage in sexual activity with the owner. Furthermore, the suit alleges that the owner subjected other female employees to the same sexually hostile work environment.
Berry Services, Inc. provides a bus service for the New Orleans Metropolitan area, including many of the local high schools.
Sexual harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
The EEOC’s suit seeks an injunction, back pay with pre-judgment interest, reinstatement or front pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, in amounts to be determined at trial.
“This action sends the message that our agency will continue to prosecute employers who subject their employees to sexual harassment, a form of sex discrimination, and in particular employers who subject their employees to retaliation for exercising their federally protected rights,” said Keith T. Hill, field director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office. “The workplace must provide equal opportunity for all, regardless of gender, and employers may not retaliate against employees who rightfully complain about what they perceive to be discrimination.”
Jim Sacher, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New Orleans and Houston Offices, said, “The EEOC will aggressively seek redress for the injuries to Ms. Baker and other female employees and protect these employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.