Female Employees Subjected to Sexual Comments and Touching, Federal Agency Says
LEXINGTON, Va. – Lexington, Va., Sawmill Operator George C. Shumate, Inc. violated federal law by allowing a male president and company owner to sexually harass female employees and by firing one of the victims for complaining, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint against Shumate Sawmill, Monique Ingram and other similarly situated women were subjected to sexual harassment from around November 2005 until at least January 2007. The complaint charged that the harassment included the owner’s attempts to kiss Ingram and other female employees; rubbing his elbow up against Ingram’s breast; asking Ingram to rub his neck during which time he would make moaning sounds; and offering a female employee $100 if she would show him her breasts.
The EEOC said that Ingram asked the owner to stop making sexual comments and to stop touching her, and that she complained to one of the company's supervisors about the owner’s sexual harassment. However, according to the EEOC, the company failed to take corrective and appropriate action to stop the harassment, but rather discharged Ingram in February 2007 in retaliation for her complaints about the owner’s sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the lawsuit, the EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the affected women, as well as injunctive and other non-monetary relief. The EEOC filed suit, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. George C. Shumate, Inc., Civil Action No. 6:06cv00050), after exhausting efforts to reach a voluntary settlement.
“We have brought this lawsuit because the employer refused to end the sexually hostile work environment created by the president and owner of this company, and no one – male or female – should have to tolerate this type of sexual misconduct in the workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the agency’s Charlotte District Office, whose jurisdiction includes much of the state of Virginia. “The EEOC is committed to using all available means, including litigation, to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.