Meeting of June 17, 2015 - Retaliation in the Workplace: Causes, Remedies, and Strategies for Prevention
I want to thank the Commission for inviting me to speak here today. My name is Jacquelyn Hines, and I was one of four claimants in the EEOC's lawsuit against New Breed Logistics for the sexual harassment and retaliation I suffered while working there.
I am a single mother, born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I attended Booker T. Washington High School, but did not graduate due to a teen pregnancy. I later obtained my GED and enrolled in community college, but had to quit after one semester to find work and support myself and my children. For the next several years, I worked temporary jobs through various staffing agencies. The pay for such jobs was generally at or near minimum wage.
In April 2008, I started working at one of New Breed's Memphis, Tennessee warehouses as a temporary material handler through a staffing agency. The job started at $11.00 per hour, which, at the time, was more money than I had ever made. There was also a possibility of moving to a permanent employee with a pay increase and benefits. At first I enjoyed working at New Breed. Unfortunately, the conduct of my supervisor made the job nearly impossible to endure. On a daily basis, my supervisor made vulgar, sexually explicit comments to the women working in his department, including myself. The supervisor would also make lewd sexual gestures towards us.
As a temporary employee, New Breed did not provide us any training on how to handle these situations. I, and other women in the department, asked the supervisor repeatedly to stop his inappropriate behavior, but he did not. One day in particular, I was having a rough day, so when the supervisor started in with the sexual comments, I cursed at him at told him to get out of my face with that type of conduct. I did not want to hear it. My supervisor walked away, but later that day the temporary staffing agency called me regarding attendance issues. The next day my supervisor began sending me home early, cutting my hours and pay, and within a week the supervisor terminated my assignment at New Breed for alleged attendance issues. I had never been warned, counseled, or disciplined in any way regarding attendance before standing up to my supervisor.
The retaliation did not end there. After my New Breed assignment ended, the staffing agency did not have any other placements for me. I was unemployed and needed work to support myself and my children. I learned that New Breed was hiring for permanent positions at a different warehouse location in Olive Branch, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis, so I applied. I was hired on June 11, 2008 and began working. After less than two weeks, however, when New Breed's HR Manager learned that I had been hired, she had me fired and escorted off the property immediately. The only reason given for my termination was that New Breed was an at-will company.
After being terminated for the second time, I continued to look for work, but remained unemployed for an extended time period. There was no work available and I realized I needed more job security, so I enrolled in a local technical college. I later obtained my associate's degree and certification to work as a physical therapy assistant. Today, I am currently employed as a physical therapy assistant at therapy clinic in Memphis.
The harassment and retaliation I suffered while working at New Breed was an extremely difficult experience. But I am proud that I stood up for myself, and I am grateful the EEOC has worked to make sure employees are protected in workplace.
I want to thank the Commission again for giving me the opportunity to come to Washington and tell my story. I am hopeful that my participation in this EEOC enforcement action can help to prevent harassment and retaliation of other individuals in the future.