Birmingham District Manager Sexually Harassed Female Employees Under His Supervision, Federal Agency Charged
BIRMINGHAM - U.S. Security Associates, Inc. (USSA), a national security guard service based in Atlanta, has agreed to pay $1.95 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Christopher Hargrove, district manager for USSA in Birmingham, Ala., sexually harassed several female employees he supervised by subjecting them to unwelcome sexual demands, demeaning gestures, inappropriate touching and other sexually offensive conduct. One of the employees named in the EEOC’s lawsuit, Jamie Marks, had previously obtained a favorable jury verdict in her own lawsuit, Marks v. U.S. Security Associates, Inc., et al., 2:08-CV-00459-KOB (N.D. Ala.). In that case, Marks was awarded $2.7 million in compensatory and punitive damages against USSA and Hargrove. The five other female employees identified by the EEOC had intervened in the EEOC’s action, as well as a sixth individual, who claimed that she had been sexually harassed by Hargrove while he was supervising USSA employees in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 2:09-CV-00598-AKK) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC lawsuit was litigated by EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Charles Guerrier.
Pursuant to the forty two month consent decree settling the suit, USSA agreed to pay $1.95 million to the seven women in resolution of their Title VII claims. USSA additionally entered into separate settlements with each of the women resolving their individual state-law claims.
As part of the settlement, USSA also agreed to revise its policies and complaint procedures to appropriately address sexual harassment and retaliation, and to train all staff on anti-harassment procedures. The company will also establish a centralized process for investigating and tracking sexual harassment complaints and hold supervisors and managers accountable for eliminating such misconduct in the workplace. To ensure enforcement of the decree, USSA will hire a consent decree coordinator who will be responsible for monitoring USSA’s performance during the decree’s duration and submitting periodic reports to the EEOC.
“We are very pleased with the overall result in this case,” said Julie Bean, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “This consent decree will change the way USSA does business and create a much improved work environment. It should also serve as a wake-up call for every employer to take its obligations under federal civil rights law seriously. Sexual harassment, when it is not promptly corrected, causes serious harm to its victims and can be a costly matter for the employer.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.