The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
6-9-09

UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX TO PAY $32,500 TO SETTLE EEOC RETALIATION LAWSUIT

School Denied Training Opportunities to Employee for Filing Earlier Pregnancy Discrimination Charge, Federal Agency Said

HOUSTON -- The University of Phoenix, Inc. will pay $32,500 and furnish other relief to settle a retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in September 2008 (C.A. 4:08-cv-02890 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division), charged that Latrish Elaine Tarhini, an enrollment counselor at the University of Phoenix’s Houston campus, applied for the company’s leadership development program and for a position as a team lead. After she was not selected for either, the EEOC said, Tarhini learned that management had stated she would never be a manager or considered for management because of her earlier pregnancy discrimination charge against the company.

Retaliation for complaining about discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The consent decree settling the suit, signed by Judge Sim Lake on June 4, 2009, requires the university to pay $32,500 in monetary relief to Tarhini to compensate her for the mental and emotional damages she sustained due to the company’s retaliatory refusal to allow her to participate in these training opportunities. The decree also contains provisions to ensure that University of Phoenix managers and employees are trained in complying with laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. It also requires a notice be issued to Tarhini’s former supervisor on the EEOC’s allegations of retaliation, and that the university provide the agency with annual reports reflecting any retaliation complaints with Title VII implications.

“Denying an employee training opportunities in retaliation for having previously filed a discrimination charge violates federal law as much as a retaliatory discharge,” said Kathy D. Boutchee, the EEOC senior trial attorney in charge of the case. “This case serves the compelling public interest of ensuring both employers and employees understand that no employee should be chilled from filing a charge of discrimination or opposing unlawful discrimination in the workplace because she fears retaliation.”

Jim Sacher, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, added, “Employers should be encouraged by this resolution to avoid penalizing employees for exercising their lawful right to protest perceived discrimination. This settlement provides significant measures to educate management and employees about the law to prevent retaliation from occurring in the future.”

According to its web site, Arizona-based University of Phoenix is the largest private university in North America, with nearly 200 campuses and learning centers.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. Additional information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.

Anyone who believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination or retaliation in the workplace is encouraged to contact the EEOC’s Houston District Office, which is located in downtown Houston at the Mickey Leland Federal Building at 1919 Smith Street, 7th Floor. The phone number is 713/209-3372.


This page was last modified on June 9, 2009.

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