Hispanic Employee Had to Quit to Escape Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
ASHEBORO, N.C. – B.J. Con/Sew Corporation, an Asheboro sewing contractor, will pay $75,000 and provide substantial additional relief to settle a national origin harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged the company with subjecting an employee to harassment because of his Hispanic national origin. The lawsuit further charged that the employee, Jason Ramirez, was forced to resign after the company failed to address multiple complaints that Ramirez made about the harassment.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Ramirez, who has one Hispanic parent, was subjected to the harassment on a near-daily basis from around July 2006 through June 2008. During that time, one of Ramirez’s co-workers called him derogatory names including “wetback,” “crazy Mexican,” “dumb, stupid Mexican” and “half-breed.” The complaint also alleges that Ramirez was harassed by a second co-worker, who was later promoted to a supervisory role over Ramirez. According to the lawsuit, despite Ramirez’s numerous complaints to multiple levels of management including the company’s plant manager and owner, the harassment continued. Around June 9, 2008, Ramirez felt he had no other choice than to resign his position to avoid the harassment.
National origin harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further, when harassment becomes so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would feel compelled to quit in order to escape the hostile environment, it constitutes constructive discharge. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. B.J. Con/Sew Corp. d/b/a B.J. Con-Sew, Inc., Civ. Action No. 1:11-CV-00450) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to providing monetary relief and a letter of reference to Ramirez, the company agreed to conduct annual harassment training of its employees and managers, and make its anti-harassment policy available to all employees. The company will also report all harassment complaints of national origin-based harassment to the EEOC for the next three years.
“There is no place for harassment of any kind in any workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Employers must take complaints about harassment seriously and address them, or possibly face EEOC charges.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tina Burnside added, “Employers have a legal obligation to address discrimination complaints, and employees should never be subjected to an intolerable workplace so permeated with harassment that their only viable option is to quit.”
According to company information, B.J. Con/Sew Corporation is a family-owned and operated sewing contractor. The company employs approximately 65 people.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.