Hispanic, Black Employees Subjected to Racial and Ethnic Slurs, Agency Charged
MIAMI – National department store Nordstrom, Inc. will pay $292,500 to 10 former employees and furnish other remedial measures to settle a harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. EEOC had charged that the department store manager harassed Hispanic and black employees based on their national origin, race, and color, and retaliated against those who complained about the harassment.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an alterations department manager complained that she “hate[d] Hispanics,” and that Hispanics were “lazy” and “ignorant.” Hispanic tailors were chastised by the alterations manager for speaking to each other in Spanish. The same manager made other derogatory remarks such as “I don’t like blacks” and “you’re black, you stink.” The alterations manager harassed the alterations staff at Nordstrom stores in Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington, Fla.
The employees complained to Nordstrom about the harassment, but the harassment did not stop. The alteration’s manager retaliated against those who complained by continuing the racially offensive comments, unfairly berating employees and citing them for alleged performance problems.
Acting Chairman of the EEOC, Stuart J. Ishimaru, stated, “It does not matter whether someone is employed on the sales floor or, as in this case, working behind the scenes, the EEOC will pursue instances of harassment in violation of federal employment discrimination laws.”
Under the terms of a consent decree, Nordstrom will pay $292,500 in damages. The decree also requires the company to distribute its policy addressing unlawful harassment to all employees in the Wellington and Palm Beach stores; provide harassment training, post a notice on the resolution of the lawsuit, and submit a semi-annual report to EEOC on all harassment complaints received during the next two years.
“Employers must act swiftly to correct harassment and prevent abusive conduct,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Nora E. Curtin. “Instead of dealing with the despicable racial and ethnic comments, Nordstrom management allowed the harasser to retaliate against the employees for complaining.”
EEOC District Director Jacqueline H. McNair added, “We are pleased that Nordstrom and the EEOC reached a satisfactory resolution of this lawsuit. The resolution includes significant equitable relief that will benefit all Nordstrom employees. We trust that additional training and the proposed policy will improve the work environment, and emphasize a commitment to preventing further discrimination.”
Harassment based on national origin, race, and color violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit on Sept. 27, 2007, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Palm Beach Division (Case No. 07-80894-CIV-RYSKAMP/VITUNAC), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation, voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.