Disability Services Company Fired Employee Over Discrimination Charge and Threatened Witness, Federal Agency Charged
PHOENIX – Creative Networks, LLC, a company which provides services to the disabled, has agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged that two coordinators at the company were unlawfully retaliated against on the same day for complaining about national origin and race discrimination and participating in an investigation about it.
According to the EEOC(s suit, Case No. 05-CV-03032-PHX-SMM, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, on May 16, 2003, Rhonda Encinas-Castro went to the EEOC to file a charge of discrimination based on national origin and race. About 14 days later, the EEOC said, Encinas-Castro was fired by the company’s executive director for filing the charge. Further, the agency charged, the executive director threatened to fire Kathryn Allen, who had never been disciplined for anything before, because she had been named as a witness in Encinas-Castro’s discrimination charge.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects from retaliation both employees who complain about discrimination and those who serve as witnesses to it.
As part of the agreement, besides the $110,000 in monetary relief, Creative Networks must adopt an anti-retaliation policy and provide anti-retaliation training to its employees. Creative Networks is also prohibited from engaging in any further retaliation.
Mary Jo O(Neill, regional attorney for the Phoenix District Office, said, “We will continue to vigorously protect employees who complain about discrimination or serve as witnesses to it because they are the lifeblood to effective enforcement. These civil rights statutes only mean something when people are free to tell the truth about discrimination in the workplace. We have seen an alarming increase in retaliation charges, and we are very concerned that employees know that they can report discrimination without repercussions.”
Rayford O. Irvin, acting district director of the Phoenix District Office, added, “As the United States Supreme Court recently reiterated in the Burlington Northern case, the primary purpose of the retaliation statutes is to maintain ‘unfettered access’ to complaint processes. We will ensure that all employees are protected from retaliation whether they are the filer of a charge or have assisted other employees in their complaints.”
Creative Networks, an Arizona corporation with more than 1,000 employees, provides medical, psychological, and educational services to individuals with mental and physical disabilities.
Retaliation charges with the EEOC have risen from 18,198 in Fiscal Year 1997, comprising 22.6 percent of all charges, to 33,613 in FY 2009, accounting for 36 percent of all charges.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.