Only Female Roustabout Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment, Agency Charged
DALLAS - An Iraan, Texas oil field construction and services company will pay $30,000 and furnish other relief to settle a retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC's suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Pecos Division (4:14-CV-00073-DAE), charged that Garrison Contractors, Inc. fired its only female roustabout, Elma Garza, after she reported being sexually harassed on the job.
Hired by the company in January 2012 as a dump truck driver, Garza spent most of her employment as the company's only female oil field worker. In this roustabout position, Garza worked side by side with her male co-workers fixing oil and gas leaks, digging ditches and cleaning heavy equipment. EEOC said that during her employment, Garza was subjected to lewd comments about female organs and sex. EEOC contends that when Garza reported the unwanted conduct, the company retaliated against her by terminating her.
Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"Ms. Garza had a legal right to report what she considered offensive sexual conduct and should not have been terminated for engaging in this protected activity," said Devika Seth, senior trial attorney in the EEOC's Dallas District Office. "We are pleased that this settlement vindicates her right to report violations of federal law, and we hope it sends a message to employers that EEOC will fight for a workplace that is free from punishment against employees who seek legal protections."
In addition to monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra on September 2, 2015, includes injunctive terms such as requiring the company to:
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is of one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
Robert Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office, added, "Given the isolated nature of oil field work assignments, combined with the traditionally male makeup of these jobs, women may be vulnerable to offensive and harsh treatment if there is not a clear company message that harassment is not tolerated. A response that excludes female workers from the field by firing them is unacceptable and unlawful. Good management operates to stop misconduct -- not punish the person who brings it to light."
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov. EEOC's Dallas District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative
enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in northern Texas and parts of New Mexico.