Federal Agency Charged Beauty Wholesaler With Refusing to Hire Men and Retaliating Against a Manager Who Opposed the Discrimination
MIAMI - Ventura Corporation, a Puerto Rico-based wholesaler of makeup, beauty products, jewelry and other personal care items to retail sellers, has agreed to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC charged in its suit that Ventura engaged in a pattern or practice of refusing to hire men as Zone Managers and Support Managers. The EEOC also alleged that Ventura promoted Erick Zayas into a Zone Manager position after he complained about its discriminatory practices, only to set him up for failure and termination in retaliation for his opposition to Ventura's sex-based hiring practices.
Sex discrimination and retaliation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 3:11-cv-01700-PG) in U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico after first investigating the case, and then attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
According to the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, which was approved by the court on March 27, 2014, Ventura will pay $354,250 to settle the lawsuit, including a payment to Zayas of $150,000. The remaining settlement funds will be paid into an account that will be distributed to a class of qualified male job applicants who applied for Zone or Support Manager jobs with Ventura from 2004 to the present, but whom Ventura did not consider for hire. The agreement also requires Ventura to implement a detailed applicant tracking system; actively promote supervisory accountability for discrimination prevention; provide anti-discrimination training to all company employees and anti-discrimination training specific to those Ventura managers and employees who play a role in the hiring process; and provide bi-annual hiring reports to the EEOC for three years.
The EEOC said that the company was responsible for the loss or destruction of a great deal of critical evidence supporting the case. The disappeared evidence included job applications from qualified male applicants for the positions at issue and e-mails from key decision makers. The EEOC asked the court to award sanctions against the company based on the apparent destruction of evidence. The judge, agreeing with the EEOC's position, made a ruling that if the case were to proceed to a jury trial, he would instruct the jurors that they may draw an adverse inference from the vanished evidence, and may assume that it would have supported the EEOC's case regarding the company's violations of discrimination law.
"This case is another reminder that federal law protects both men and women from gender discrimination," said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District Office. "We are pleased that we have been able to secure relief not only for Mr. Zayas, but also for the many qualified applicants who were not considered by Ventura for employment simply because they were male."
Malcolm Medley, director of the EEOC's Miami District Office, added, "There is no protection in the law for reliance on outdated sex stereotypes. When they appear in the workplace, employees must be able to raise legitimate concerns of discrimination without fear of retaliation."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office's jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.