EPI Subjected Female Workers to Verbal and Physical Abuse, Federal Agency Charges
OXFORD, Miss. – A St. Louis-based plastic injection molding company will pay $190,000 and provide other relief to resolve a sexual harassment and constructive discharge lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, EPI Advanced, LLC and Engineered Products Industries, LLC allowed Dean Miller, a male supervisor, and another male co-worker to harass press operator Cathy Johnson and seven other women at its Sherman, Miss., plant. The women claimed that they were forced to endure a myriad of sexually explicit comments and propositions, and some were grabbed and touched as well by Miller. Several women quit because of the harassment, and one woman quit her job after Miller phoned her at work threatening to sexually assault her in the employee parking lot. Although several complaints were made by victims to management, the company failed to properly investigate complaints and stop the misconduct, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi (Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-00108) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief, EPI Advanced, LLC and Engineered Products Industries, LLC are required, under the publicly filed consent decree, to develop and maintain a policy prohibiting sexual harassment; to distribute the policy and complaint procedure to all employees; to provide mandatory training to its employees within six months of the decree; to post a notice of the settlement at the Sherman plant; to maintain records of discrimination complaints; and to report such complaints to the EEOC, together with any actions taken in response, for three years. The decree resolving the case also enjoins EPI Advanced, LLC and Engineered Products Industries, LLC from subjecting any female employee to sexual harassment.
The litigation in U.S. District Court at Oxford was a joint effort of the legal units of the EEOC’s Memphis and Birmingham District Offices. Both offices have jurisdiction and provide services in the state of Mississippi. Celia Liner, from the Memphis District Office, and Maricia Woodham, from the Birmingham District Office, are the Commission attorneys who headed up the litigation team.
Celia Liner, EEOC senior trial attorney, said, “The environment at EPI was simply intolerable. Women should be able to report to work and do their jobs without being subjected to harassment. No one should have to deal with such conduct in order to get a paycheck. Employers must understand that sexual harassment simply cannot be condoned or tolerated at work. The EEOC will continue to combat harassment in the workplace so that women can work in environments free from sexual abuse.”
Maricia Woodham, EEOC trial attorney, added, “We are encouraged that the defendants will train supervisors and managers to handle any future complaints of harassment promptly and properly.”
EPI Advanced, LLC, wholly owned by Engineered Products Industries, LLC, specializes in plastic injection molding. EPI is a custom plastic injection molding company founded in 1953 with headquarters in St. Louis and divisional operations in Sherman, Miss., and DeQueen, Ark. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.