Security Firm Forced Out Guard for Complaining About Racial Insults, Federal Agency Charges
BALTIMORE - MVM Inc., an Ashburn, Va.-based diversified security services firm, violated federal law when it stopped accommodating a security guard's religious beliefs and disciplined him in retaliation for his complaint about racial harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the suit, Kelvin Davis is a practicing Muslim and observes his faith by wearing a beard. MVM hired Davis to work at a facility in Woodlawn, Md., as a security guard. Although MVM has a grooming policy which restricts guards' facial hair to no longer than one-quarter of an inch, it granted Davis a waiver as a religious accommodation.
Davis maintained his beard while working for MVM for approximately one year, until he complained to MVM management that his supervisor had called him a "nigga." Instead of taking corrective action, the day after Davis' complaint, his supervisor and two managers retaliated against him by forcing him to shave his beard, the EEOC said.
The EEOC charged that MVM also retaliated against Davis by subjecting him to heightened scrutiny and unwarranted discipline, including a one-day suspension for arriving to work two minutes late. It also threatened him with termination. The EEOC charged that MVM's failure to address the racial harassment, unjustified retaliatory actions, and threat of termination created conditions of employment so intolerable that Davis was forced to resign.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race or religion. Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs. The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because he complained about harassment or discrimination.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. MVM, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02025) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Davis, as well as injunctive relief.
"No one should be subjected to racial slurs to earn a living," said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "Mr. Davis exercised his civil right to complain about racial harassment, but MVM unfortunately chose to engage in reprisal instead of addressing the harassment."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Retaliation always makes a bad situation worse. Employers must take action to investigate and stop racial harassment, not punish the victim, and that's why we filed this suit."
The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.