EEOC Says 19 Year-Old Propositioned by Owner, Kept Against Her Will During Car Ride
HOUSTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that a federal district court jury returned a verdict yesterday for the EEOC in the amount of $110,000 against a Houston dry cleaner for sexual harassment. The EEOC had charged that the owner of Bellair Cleaners, Inc., doing business as Park Avenue Cleaners, Bellair Cleaners, and Your Valet (Park Avenue Cleaners), harassed a female employee, then aged 19, and other women.
The jury found that the companies operated as an integrated enterprise and that their owner and manager sexually harassed the teenager and other women he supervised. The jury apportioned $30,000 of the award for compensatory damages to the teenage victim and an additional award to her of $75,000 for punitive damages. The case was tried before Judge Lee Rosenthal in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. H-06-3004 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division) charged the owner with egregious misconduct and presented evidence at trial that the young female victim had been inappropriately touched by Nazir Ali, the company’s male owner, who besieged her with his offensive remarks, and kept her against her will during a long car ride while he graphically described his sexual appetites and intent to have sex with her against her will.
Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, said, “This verdict sends a strong message to company owners that there are severe consequences for disobeying the laws against sexual harassment. The conduct complained of in this lawsuit was particularly egregious, especially considering the age of one of the victims and the fact that she was harassed by the owner of the company.”
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and prohibits employers from retaliating against those who complain about such misconduct. The EEOC filed this suit after exhausting its conciliation efforts to reach voluntary settlements.
R.J. Ruff, the EEOC’s Houston district director, noted, “The retail and service sector has historically provided many entry level and supervisory opportunities for qualified women, especially teenagers – who should not have to run a gauntlet of sexual harassment to gain and keep their jobs. The facts of this case point to the need for vigorous enforcement and outreach to teen workers, such as the Commission’s Youth@Work Initiative.”
In September 2004, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp (then vice chair) launched the federal agency’s national Youth@Work Initiative -- a comprehensive outreach and education campaign designed to inform teens about their employment rights and responsibilities and to help employers create positive first work experiences for young adults. The EEOC has held more than 3,000 Youth@Work events nationwide since the program was launched, reaching more than 195,000 students, education professionals, and employers. Further information about the Youth@Work campaign, including how to schedule a free Youth@Work outreach presentation, is available on the agency’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/youth/index.html. Specific EEOC-related information for teens is available on the Youth@Work web site at http://www.youth.eeoc.gov.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.