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EEOC Sues Rite Way for Unlawful Retaliation

Rite  Way Fired Employee for Participating in Internal Investigation of Co-Worker's Sexual  Harassment Claim, Federal Agency Charges

JACKSON, Miss. -- Rite Way Service, Inc., an Alabama  corporation that specializes in providing janitorial cleaning services to  commercial facilities in Mississippi, violated federal law by firing an employee  in unlawful retaliation for participating in a required internal investigation  concerning a sexual harassment complaint submitted by a coworker, the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on  June 27, 2013.  

According to the lawsuit, Rite Way employed Mekeva Tennort  between 2009 and 2011 to perform janitorial duties at Biloxi Junior High  School. In August 2011, Tennort gave a statement to supervisors investigating a  complaint by another employee who had alleged sexually offensive conduct.  Following Tennort's participation in the campus police investigation, a manager  for Rite Way explained to Tennort that Rite Way needed her written statement.  Afterward, Rite Way is alleged to have documented negative, unsubstantiated  performance incidents involving concerning Tennort. On September 26, 2011, Rite  Way terminated Tennort.

Such alleged conduct violates Title  VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from retaliating  against an employee who has participated in any manner in an investigation under  Title VII, including an employer's internal investigation.  The EEOC filed suit [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Rite Way Service, Inc.,  Southern District of Mississippi Federal Court 3:13-cv-00407-CWR-FKB] after  first attempting to resolve the matter informally through its conciliation  process.

Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's  Birmingham District, said, "Title VII protects employees against retaliation.  Its protection includes employees who have not complained themselves, but who  participate in internal employment investigations of sexual harassment. The  Commission is committed to making retaliation less of an obstacle to full  exercise of the rights guaranteed by Title VII."

"Unfortunately, retaliation claims accompany far too  many complaints of Title VII discrimination.   The Commission is dedicated to enforcing Title VII and to preventing  retaliation against those who oppose unlawful practices," said C. Emanuel  Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws  prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Birmingham District consists  of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at .