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PRESS RELEASE
9-30-15

EEOC Sues Philips Lighting for Retaliating Against Employee

Lighting Manufacturer Fired Employee Because of Grandfather's Discrimination Complaint, Federal Agency Charges 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Philips Lighting, a Dutch company that provides goods and services in the fields of health care, lighting, and grooming, violated federal law when it fired an employee because his grandfather had filed a lawsuit against the company, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC's lawsuit, Philips hired Jake Lee Velasquez to work as a security guard in its Salina, Kan., lighting facility.  But the company terminated him on his first day of work after recognizing him to be the grandson of a former employee with a discrimination suit pending against the company.  In forbidding Velasquez from returning to the company, Philips specifically referenced his grandfather's lawsuit, the agency alleged.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees and job applicants from retaliatory conduct designed to discourage employees from complaining about discrimination.  The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Philips Lighting, Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-9296), seeks damages for Velasquez as well as injunctive relief barring future retaliation against employees or applicants.  The agency filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. 

"Retaliation charges are the fastest-growing type of complaint our agency has seen recently," said James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC's St. Louis District.  "This is an important area for our enforcement efforts."

Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of the federal agency's St. Louis District, said, "Protecting employees from retaliation is vital.  If employees feel that they or a family member will lose a job for complaining about discrimination, then no one will come forward. Title VII's anti-retaliation provisions ensure that employers pay a high penalty for this type of intimidation."

EEOC's St. Louis District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and southern Illinois, with Area Offices in Kansas City and Oklahoma City.  

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.