Company Fired Woman Who Complained About Sexual Assaults, Federal Agency Charges
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Plastics Manufacturing, Inc. unlawfully subjected a class of women to egregious sexual harassment and fired an employee who opposed the harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Veronica Jalpa and a class of female workers were subjected to severe and pervasive sexual harassment by a company supervisor at Pittsburgh Plastic’s Butler, Pa., facility. On several occasions, the EEOC said, the supervisor sexually assaulted Jalpa and other females by rubbing his crotch against them or by touching or slapping them on their buttocks. The supervisor also repeatedly made sexually offensive and demeaning comments to Jalpa and female employees.
Jalpa, of Butler, was assigned to work at Pittsburgh Plastics by a temporary agency. She complained to both company officials and to the temporary agency about the unrelenting harassment and requested to be reassigned to a different shift to escape the unwanted sexual advances and harassment. The EEOC contends that not only did Pittsburgh Plastics fail to take prompt measures to stop the sexual harassment, it engaged in unlawful retaliation by discharging Jalpa. Other female workers were forced to quit due to the unendurable hostile work environment.
The EEOC further charges that after Jalpa filed a charge of discrimination, the company threatened witnesses with retaliation if they cooperated in the agency’s investigation. The company did not demote the supervisor, who remains employed with Pittsburgh Plastics, until shortly after receipt of Jalpa’s EEOC charge.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful to sexually harass any employee and to retaliate against someone who complains about sex (or other) discrimination. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 09-1148, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
“The EEOC will take strong action against employers who condone egregious sexual harassment and who engage in wrongful retaliation,” said Marie M. Tomasso, district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
Debra Lawrence, acting regional attorney for the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, added, “It is shocking that Pittsburgh Plastics failed to take action when women complained about being physically assaulted by their supervisor. The company made a bad situation much worse and increased its liability by retaliating against employees and witnesses.”
In Fiscal Year 2008, sexual harassment filings with the EEOC rose to 13,867, an increase of almost 11 percent from the prior fiscal year. Retaliation charges also rose to a record high level of 32,690 -- a 23% jump from the prior fiscal year and more than double the number of such filings in the early 1990s.
According to company information, Pittsburgh Plastics is “a global leader in the contract manufacturing of customized, soft cushioning products for the medical, safety and foot care markets.” The company’s annual sales were $10 million in 2008. Additional information about the company is available on its website, www.pittsburghplastics.com.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.