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PRESS RELEASE
3-24-14

Winfield Rubber to Pay $75,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit

Manager Fired for Opposing Workplace Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A Winfield, Ala., rubber products manufacturing company will pay $75,000 and furnish injunctive relief to settle a retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC's lawsuit charged that Winfield Rubber Manufacturing Co. Inc. retaliated against plant manager Mark Holmes for opposing workplace sexual harassment of a subordinate employee and because Holmes responded properly under federal anti-discrimination law.

At the time, Holmes was responsible for investigating sexual harassment allegations made by subordinate employees at Winfield Rubber and determining the appropriate company response. According to the suit, Holmes received a complaint from a female subordinate employee which alleged she was the victim of sexual harassment by a male co-worker. His internal investigation revealed evidence substantiating the complaint, including a confession by the alleged harasser. Holmes fired the harasser, but the company reinstated him despite objections of the plant manager, and instead fired Holmes.

Such alleged retaliation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (No. 2:13-CV-00602) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The settlement, memorialized in a two-year consent decree approved by the court on March 14, 2014, includes $75,000 in monetary relief for Holmes. The decree requires Winfield Rubber to implement new policies and practices designed to prevent retaliation, conduct management training on anti-discrimination laws, and post notices at the worksite. For the decree's two-year period, Winfield Rubber is also required to provide copies of certain documents to the EEOC.

"An employee should never be forced to choose between his livelihood and doing what is legally correct and proper," said Maneesh Varma, trial attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office. "The laws against retaliation protect employees who oppose actual or perceived unlawful discrimination."

Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office, added, "The EEOC will target policies and practices that discourage or prohibit people from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts. When employers choose not to meet those obligations, the agency is prepared to pursue all appropriate means to hold them accountable."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Birmingham District covers Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.