The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Telecom Giant Fired Woman One Week After She Complained of Sex Discrimination, Federal Agency Says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Southeastern Telecom, Inc. violated federal law by retaliating against one of its employees by firing her one week after she made a complaint of sex discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-00887), filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, asserts that Suzanne Sword, an account executive for the company, complained to her sales manager about gender discrimination. Specifically, Sword questioned the assignment of accounts in the office. Upon receiving Sword’s complaint, the EEOC said, Southeastern Telecom immediately disabled her computer, removed her e-mail access, restricted her access to the work site, and fired her approximately a week later.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act, which protect employees who make complaints of discrimination from retaliation. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The lawsuit asks the court to, among other things, grant a permanent injunction enjoining Southeastern Telecom from engaging in any employment practice that discriminates on the basis of retaliation, and to grant appropriate back wages and compensatory and punitive damages.

Katharine W. Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, said, “Federal law absolutely prohibits this egregious retaliatory behavior because it discourages victims of discrimination from coming forward. Retaliation undermines the EEOC’s ability to enforce the law and is counter to the intent of Congress in enacting Title VII. The EEOC is committed to obtaining all appropriate remedies in this lawsuit.”

Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., Southeastern Telecom is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the country, with offices in 10 states.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

This page was last modified on September 23, 2009.

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