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EEOC Sues Guardsmark For Co-Worker Harassment

East Indian Guard Mocked for Turban, Accent and Age, Federal Agency Charges

SAN JOSE, Calif.  -- One of the world’s largest security firms violated federal law when it failed to stop co-worker harassment of a guard concerning his national origin and age, the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed  today. According to the EEOC, Guardsmark  not only ignored the employee’s reports of harassment, but retaliated against  him with an involuntary transfer.

The EEOC’s investigation determined  that Inderpal Nayyar, who worked as a security guard for Guardsmark in San Jose, faced constant  harassment regarding his East Indian national origin and his age (66 years old  at the time). For example, his co-worker  repeatedly ridiculed Nayyar’s turban and accent and told Nayyar “you’re too  old” and “you need to retire.” Nayyar  made numerous complaints to supervisors, but Guardsmark took no action to address  the harassment, the EEOC said. Instead,  Nayyar was involuntarily transferred, which ultimately led to a reduction of  his hours and lost benefits. Nayyar  ultimately resigned from Guardsmark.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights  Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers have  a legal obligation to stop discrimination based on national origin and age. Both laws also strictly prohibit retaliation  against workers who report discrimination.  The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 11-03190PSG in U.S. District Court  for the Northern District of California – San    Jose) after first attempting to reach a voluntary  settlement. The suit seeks back pay and other monetary losses, compensatory  and punitive damages for Nayyar and appropriate injunctive relief to prevent any  future discrimination.

“The law is very clear: all employees have the right to work in an  environment free from hostility, intimidation and ridicule,” said EEOC Regional  Attorney William R. Tamayo. “Employers have a duty to respond  promptly and adequately to reports of discrimination. Those who choose to ignore harassment or respond  with retaliation will be held accountable in court by the EEOC.”

Nayyar, a naturalized U.S.  citizen of East Indian descent, said, “When I told my managers about the  harassment, nothing happened, and then, worse yet, I suffered retaliation for speaking  out. All I wanted was to be able to do  my job in peace. I am thankful that the EEOC has taken my  case.”

EEOC District Director Michael  Baldonado noted, “Punishing the employee who speaks out will only multiply your  problems. First, you are failing in your  legal obligation to investigate and stop harassment. Second, you add the new offense of illegal  retaliation. Third, you send a message  to your entire work force that an employee complains at his or her own  peril. A workplace where employees are  afraid to speak out against harassment can evolve into a toxic environment  where harassment becomes the norm.”

Baldonado noted that retaliation cases  represent one of the fastest growing types of charges filed with the EEOC. In fiscal year 2010, retaliation charge  filings across the country increased 6 percent over the last five years to a record  30,948 cases.

Guardsmark provides uniformed  security personnel to businesses worldwide, with more than 150 offices  throughout the United States,  Canada, Puerto  Rico, United Kingdom,  France and Singapore. Its headquarters and principal place of  business is in New York City, and its administrative  service center is based in Memphis,  Tenn.

The EEOC enforces federal laws  prohibiting employment discrimination.  Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at