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Courtesy Building Services Settles EEOC Sex Harassment Suit

Company Forced Sexually Hostile Environment on Women, Including Coaxing Them Into Sham Marriages, Federal Agency Charged

DALLAS – Courtesy  Building Services, Inc., a janitorial and construction service which has  offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit  brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal  agency announced today. Under a consent  decree, the company will pay a former employee $27,500 in damages and attorney  fees, and agrees to monitoring by the EEOC to ensure compliance with the law  for a period of seven years.

The  EEOC’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas,  Dallas Division (3:09-CV-0911-D), charged that the company subjected female  employees to a sexually  hostile work environment.

Specifically,  according to the EEOC, former operations manager Melissa Gaona and other women  were forced to work in a “good old boy” atmosphere where comments about women’s  bodies and references to the strip club across the street were a constant occurrence. Male management personnel frequently  commented on how women, including employees, looked, suggesting that Gaona  enhance her breasts with implants. A  male sales representative frequently used the word “whore” in referencing  women. According to Gaona, one of the  sales rep’s vulgar refrains was, “As long as you have t--s, you'll have a  job.” She was also subjected to unwanted  touchings. After suit was filed, the  company posted a memo on “Rules,” which asked employees not to act “so loud or dirty.”

Further,  the EEOC said that Courtesy pressured Melissa Gaona and other women to enter  into fraudulent marriages with foreign nationals whom they did not know to help  them gain U.S.  citizenship.

“I  wanted to get ahead, but my boss told me I wasn’t going to amount to anything  if I didn’t try one of these marriages,” said Gaona. “I felt dirty the whole time that I worked  there. Changing that situation for other  women that might work there was worth fighting for.”

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights  Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.

In  addition to monetary relief, the company is enjoined from requiring or  suggesting that employees marry strangers for citizenship schemes in the  future. The company will inform the EEOC  of any complaints of sexual harassment, including pressure to enter into sham  marriages, for the decree’s entire seven-year term. The company will also revise its sexual harassment  policy and procedures to ensure that employee complaints are addressed, and  provide avenues for reporting violations and conduct annual training on the  laws against sexual harassment in the workplace and the proper procedure for  investigating complaints. Courtesy will  also post a notice to employees on this consent decree that details the  reporting procedures.

“Pressuring an employee toward entering into a marriage  that she does not seek or want, with veiled threats of the consequences is, in  and of itself, a form of sexual harassment,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial  Attorney Toby Wosk Costas. “Businesses  cannot use their roster of female employees as a source of sham marriage  prospects for foreigners hoping for citizenship. When this scenario occurs, the EEOC will act  to ensure compliance with the law.”

Regional Attorney Robert Canino of the EEOC’s Dallas  District Office added, “When an employer encourages unwanted relationships or  liaisons between their female employees and customers, clients, or other third  parties, Title VII’s protections are going to come into the picture. The sexually offensive conduct of using an  altar to alter working conditions is clearly unlawful.”

The EEOC enforces  federal laws that prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is  available on its web site at