EEOC Prevails in Case Involving Physical and Verbal Abuse of Glassblowers
PHOENIX – A federal district court today entered a Federal Court Judgment for over $267,000 and significant injunctive relief in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a discrimination lawsuit against Sunfire Glass, Inc. The EEOC’s suit charged that the company’s owner subjected a class of female employees to severe physical and verbal sexual harassment in violation of federal law.
Judge Lawrence O. Anderson found that Sunfire owner Paul McBride sexually harassed two female glassblowers by touching the women on their breasts and between their legs, hitting the women on the buttocks, making obscene gestures, and verbally harassing the women by talking about their bodies and using vulgar language. At times, the court also found McBride would touch the women while they were working with hot glass and were unable to defend themselves against McBride’s advances. The two women, Tineke Meyer and Karina Mercado, complained repeatedly to management, and no action was taken. As a result of the abuse, both Meyer and Mercado were forced to resign.
The EEOC’s suit (EEOC v. Sunfire Glass, Inc., Civ. 08-1784 PHX-LOA) was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in September 2008. Despite receiving notice of the lawsuit, McBride failed to submit an answer to the litigation or otherwise appear in the case, and the court entered a default judgment against the company.
The court, in making very specific findings of fact and conclusions of law, awarded Tineke Meyer the equitable remedy of back pay plus prejudgment interest through March 12, 2009, in the sum of $60,287; compensatory damages in the sum of $50,000; and punitive damages in the sum of $50,000; totaling $160,287 in damages against Sunfire Glass, Inc. The court also ordered post-judgment interest at the legal rate until paid in full. Additionally, the court awarded Karina Mercado the equitable remedy of back pay plus prejudgment interest through March 20, 2009, in the sum of $6,781; compensatory damages in the sum of $50,000; and punitive damages in the sum of $50,000; totaling $106,781 in damages against Sunfire Glass, Inc.
The EEOC, as plaintiff, was awarded injunctive relief against Sunfire Glass, Inc. The Federal Court Judgment was signed by Magistrate Judge Lawrence O Anderson on April 10, 2009. The judge ordered Sunfire enjoined from engaging in sex discrimination, ordered Sunfire to train employees on sexual harassment, ordered Sunfire to post notices about sex discrimination, and ordered Sunfire to create anti-discrimination policies and procedures.
Sexual harassment, and forcing employees to quit as a consequence, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment) and national origin.
“The conduct at issue in this case was deplorable,” said EEOC Phoenix District Director Chester V. Bailey. “The fact that the owner of the company was the harasser left the women in a difficult situation. Fortunately, these victims bravely stepped forward to report Mr. McBride’s conduct and have it addressed.”
EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said, “Sexual harassment is the toxic waste of the workplace. This case was especially troublesome because the victims are in low-wage jobs and are particularly vulnerable. I commend Ms. Mercado and Ms. Meyer for their courage in standing up for themselves and each other. Their effort has been truly heroic.”
Sunfire Glass, Inc. is a glass company located at in Phoenix at two locations: 3031 N. 31st Avenue, and 10297 West Van Buren.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.