Employee Fired for Wearing Jewelry After Complaining About Women's Access to Bathroom Facilities, Federal Agency Charges
SAN ANTONIO - Zachry Industrial, Inc. formerly known as Zachry Construction Corporation, a privately owned construction and industrial maintenance service company based in San Antonio, Texas, violated federal law when it fired a female employee in retaliation for filing a report of sex-based discrimination at her job site as well as a federal charge of discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Zachry fired the female employee about three weeks after she complained about access to bathroom facilities for female workers. Zachry claims the female employee was discharged for wearing ear studs at a work site. However, while company policy prohibited employees from wearing studs, piercings, earrings, and other jewelry at the work site, the rule was not enforced by management and was selectively applied only to this female employee. The EEOC also charged that Zachry continued to retaliate against her by declaring her ineligible for rehire when she sought reinstatement, even though the company's policies permit employees terminated for alleged safety violations to be reinstated after thirty days.
The EEOC says that the reliance by the company on a rule regarding the wearing of jewelry was not consistent with company practices and merely a justification for expelling the worker for complaining about unequal conditions at the work site. Such alleged behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment as well as retaliation against individuals who file charges with the EEOC.
The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. SA-09-CA-0792-OG) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief.
"The statutory protections against retaliation are crucial to ensuring employment discrimination laws are enforced," said Senior Trial Attorney David Rivela of the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office. "Retaliation has become a nationwide problem and the EEOC actively prosecutes cases where employees are subjected to unlawful retaliation in the workplace.”
Supervisory Trial Attorney Judith G. Taylor added, "The EEOC is particularly concerned when employers retaliate against people who have the courage to speak out. Employees have an absolute right to come to the EEOC to report discriminatory conduct in the workplace without fearing adverse treatment. Title VII doesn't just protect employees from discrimination -- it also permits them to raise concerns of discrimination without fearing the loss of their jobs for doing so."
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.