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PRESS RELEASE
2-23-11

Major Construction Firm To Pay $110,000 To Settle EEOC Suit For Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

Brand Energy Fired Employee for Refusing Supervisor’s Requests for Sex, Federal Agency Charged

NEW ORLEANS – Four related national construction companies -- Brand Energy & Infrastructure Services, Inc., Brand Services, LLC, Brand Energy Solutions, LLC, and Brand Scaffold Services, LLC (Brand) -- will pay $110,000 to settle a suit for sexual harassment and retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The court-approved settlement resolves the charge of a former employee, Jauronice Hayes, who worked for Brand at its Conoco Phillips facility in Belle Chasse, La.

In its suit, the EEOC charged that Hayes was sexually harassed by her male supervisor. The harassment included inappropriate sexual statements, requests and demands for sexual favors, and sexual touching, the EEOC said. The suit also charged that he exposed his genitals to Hayes and informed Hayes that if she did not have sex with him, she would be laid off. Hayes anonymously complained about the sexual harassment to a company hotline and also repeatedly opposed the sexual harassment and rejected her supervisor’s sexual advances, according to the suit.

As a result of her complaint, her opposition to this harassment and her rejection of his sexual advances, Brand fired Hayes, the EEOC said. After Brand terminated Hayes, her supervisor left the company’s employment.

The EEOC also alleges that this supervisor had previously harassed another female employee, who no longer works for the company.

“Egregious sexual harassment, including unwanted touching and demands for sex with the threat of being fired, fundamentally violates the notion of a fair workplace and is unlawful,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “When an employee is fired in retaliation for complaining about that kind of conduct, it is especially troubling. Employers must understand that if they subject employees to sexual harassment or fire them for complaining, there will be serious consequences.”

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“I just wanted to do my job and be left alone,” said Hayes. “My boss touching my body and trying to pressure me to have sex with him really hurt me. No woman should have to choose between putting up with this kind of abuse or losing her job and not being able to support her family. I could not stand the idea that the company or this man might do this again to someone else. I felt that if I did not stand up for myself, I would be letting others down and setting a bad example for my kids. People out there need to know that they have rights and that the EEOC can help them. The fact that the company will have to change the way it does things in the future was very important to me.”

Under the court-ordered consent decree settling the suit, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana (Case No. 10:3306 ), Brand will pay Hayes $100,000, and $10,000 to the second victim. The company will also provide annual training to more than 450 personnel in its Gulf Region, encompassing Texas and Louisiana, covering its operations involving about 6,500 employees. Brand will also report to the EEOC for two years on all complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation in the Gulf Region.

In 2008, the EEOC filed another suit against Brand in Texas, alleging similar harassment and retaliation (Case number 08-3305, Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division). Brand settled that case with the EEOC for $175,000 in 2009.

Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s regional attorney for the Houston District Office, which oversees all litigation in Louisiana, commented, “When a supervisor touches an employee repeatedly in sexually inappropriate ways, and takes away her job because she won’t have sex with him, it is a gross violation of the law, and is totally unacceptable. We are hopeful that with the training and reporting requirements under the settlement, problems like this will not happen again within this company. If they do, we will take appropriate action.”

The EEOC was represented in the case by trial attorneys Gregory T. Juge and Tanya L. Goldman.

The EEOC enforces federal law prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.