Oil Contractor Fired Woman for Complaining About Sexual Harassment and Unequal Treatment, Federal Agency Charged
NEW ORLEANS – Basic Energy Services, L.P. has agreed to pay $250,000 and consented to substantial injunctive relief to settle a sex discrimination and retaliation suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged in its suit that the Midland, Texas-based company, a major oil well servicing contractor, had discriminated against a former field attendant because of her sex and then fired her because she complained about a discriminatory promotion denial and sexual harassment.
According to the EEOC’s suit (No.5:08-CV-1361 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Shreveport Division), Basic Energy Services denied Tawnya Smith, who worked for the company as a field disposal attendant, a promotion to field supervisor in 2006 because of her gender. Further, the EEOC asserted, Smith also was subjected to months of sexual harassment by her immediate supervisor, Roger Caldwell. After Smith filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and made an internal complaint about the sexual harassment, the suit said, the company terminated her in March 2007 in retaliation.
The EEOC’s suit was resolved by a consent decree, which was signed by Judge Tom Stagg on March 6, 2009 and entered into the record of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on March 6, 2009.
Sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although the company denied wrongdoing, it agreed to pay Tawnya Smith $250,000 in damages. Basic Energy also agreed to post and disseminate new or revised anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies and have many of its corporate officers and managers undergo annual training on sex discrimination and the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII. The company will also develop and implement a recruiting and/or job training program designed to increase a pool of female candidates for promotion in all the company’s Ark-La-Tex Division field positions, excluding those positions typically held by females, for the decree’s three-year term. The company also agreed to report its compliance with the decree terms to the EEOC.
“This resolution not only benefits Ms. Smith, but also serves the interests of all working women, particularly in industries and jobs that remain dominated by men,” said Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston. “This suit reminds employers yet again that, regardless of the industry or job in question, qualified female workers must be granted the same opportunities as qualified males and be free to work without bias, harassment or fear of retaliation. Employers who refuse to grant female workers equal opportunities in the workplace and retaliate against them for lodging discrimination complaints clearly do so at their peril.”
Keith Hill, field director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, said, “The EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office remains committed to the vigorous pursuit of employers who have denied women equal opportunities to which they are entitled under the law -- especially when the employer then retaliates against women who complained about discrimination.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
Anyone who believes he or she has been subjected to a discriminatory employment practice is encouraged to contact the EEOC's New Orleans Field Office, which is located at 1555 Poydras Street, Suite 1900 in New Orleans.