Employee Fired for Taking Part in Settlement of Sexual Harassment Lawsuit, Federal Agency Charges
DENVER – A group of interrelated automobiledealerships and financing companies in the Denver metropolitan area violated federal law by retaliating against an employee because she participated in a prior sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency allegedon Thursday, June 9, 2011, in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Denver.
According to the EEOC’scomplaint, the Moreland Auto Group, LLLP, Kids’ Financial, Inc., doing business as C.A.R. Finance,Kids’ Automotive, Inc., andBrandon Financial, Inc. (the Moreland Auto Group) intentionally and unlawfully retaliated against Lucille Fancher by firing her on June 3, 2008, because she participated in theprior EEOC lawsuit. In the earlier suit, the EEOC had charged the same companies with allowing a sexually hostile work environment and retaliating against employees when they reported sexual harassment to management.
According to the new EEOC lawsuit, Fancher, a ten-year employee, complained to management about a sexually hostile work environment and, therefore, was a participant entitled to a portion of the settlement in the prior lawsuit. The EEOC claims that in January 2008 Fancher was called into a meeting with the general manager and told that if she received money as part of a settlement of the lawsuit, she would no longer have a job. The EEOC charges that on June 3, 2008, the same day that settlement documents were due in federal court, Fancher was terminated, while another employee who did not accept her share of the settlement was not fired.
Retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment or participating in efforts to combat it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the new lawsuit (EEOC v. Moreland Auto Group, LLLP, Kids’ Financial, Inc., d/b/a C.A.R. Finance, Kids’ Automotive, Inc., and Brandon Financial, Inc. , Civil Action No. 11-cv-01512-WYD-KLM) in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The suit seeks monetary damages for Fancher, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting further retaliation and mandating corrective action.
“Retaliation charges are the highest group of charges we received last year, now making up more than 36 percent,” said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill, whose jurisdiction includes Colorado. “The law explicitly allows employees to report alleged discrimination in the workplace, to support investigations by giving witness statements and to participate as class members in lawsuits. The law refers to all that as ‘engaging in protected activity.’ Title VII specifically prohibits employers from exacting revenge on employees who act within their rights under the law.”
EEOC Denver Field Office Director Nancy Sienko added, “Retaliation for complaining about discrimination or participating in a procedure about discrimination, such as sexual harassment, is just as unlawful as the underlying discrimination itself. The EEOC is committed to protecting people from both discrimination and retaliation.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. The Denver Field Office is part of the Phoenix District, which covers Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.