Company Condoned Racial and Sexual Harassment of a Class of Male, African-American Employees, Federal Agency Charged
PHILADELPHIA – Cintas Corporation, the largest uniform manufacturer in North America and a provider of specialized services to businesses, including fire protection, will pay $152,500 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a federal racial and sexual harassment lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Claude Ash, Armand Upchurch and a class of African- American and male employees were subjected to egregious sexual and racial harassment by a co-worker with supervisory responsibilities in the company’s fire protection unit, which was then located in Warminster, and is now located in Conshohocken, Pa. The class members worked in the dry cell unit, which refurbishes and refills customers’ portable fire extinguishers. The EEOC charged that this supervisor’s unlawful harassment included: fondling the buttocks of class members; exposing his private parts and asking class members to expose their private parts to him; requesting sexual favors; and discussing his sexual exploits and sexual activities he would like to perform.
The EEOC further alleged that the supervisor engaged in unlawful racial harassment including: referring to the dry unit as the “ghetto division”; calling black employees nicknames using some derivation of “chocolate” such as “chocolate delicious”; and using a racial epithet to Upchurch and Ashe when professing why no one would believe their accounts about the harassment over company witnesses. The EEOC contended that the uncorrected harassment culminated in the discriminatory discharge of Upchurch, Ashe and other class members.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual and racial harassment. T he EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement prior to filing suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 1:09-CV-04449.
In addition to the $152,500 in monetary relief to Upchurch, Ashe and the class members, the consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Cintas from engaging in sexual or racial harassment or retaliation. The company must also provide training about federal anti-discrimination laws to all employees at the Conshohocken facility, report to the EEOC about the company’s response to any complaints of alleged discrimination, harassment or retaliation, and post a remedial notice.
“Not only is sexual and racial harassment repugnant and illegal, it is costly to employers who fail to prevent it,” said Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “This settlement provides meaningful relief and preventative measures designed to protect employees from illegal harassment.”
According to the company’s web site, www.cintas.com, Cintas operates 420 facilities in the United States and Canada and had $3.5 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2010.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.