Press Release 04-20-2020

Champion Fiberglass Settles EEOC Suit for Class Hiring Discrimination

Local Company Pays $225,000 to Resolve Claims That It Unlawfully Discriminated Against Non-Hispanic Applicants

HOUSTON - Champion Fiberglass, Inc. ("Champion"), a Houston-area manufacturing company, has settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks entered a consent decree on April 17, 2020, requiring Champion to pay $225,000 to compensate a class of non-Hispanic applicants and job-seekers who were prohibited from applying for a laborer position. The consent decree also requires Champion to correct alleged discriminatory practices, like maintaining a Spanish-speaking preference and the exclusive use of word-of-mouth recruiting for unskilled laborer jobs.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws by engaging in systemic discrimination against a class of non-Hispanic applicants for employment who were not hired or even con­sidered for employment by Champion because of their race and/or national origin. The EEOC alleged that Champion engaged in a pattern or practice of intentionally failing to hire or consider non-Hispanic applicants and job seekers for laborer positions. The EEOC also alleged that Champion impermissibly maintained a preference that its laborers speak Spanish and engaged almost exclusively in word-of-mouth recruiting in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). EEOC alleged that, when a non-Hispanic, non-Spanish speaking job-seeker responded to a posted sign advertising for laborer positions, Champion refused to even give him an application. According to the EEOC, these unlawful practices had an adverse impact on non-Hispanic applicants and job seekers and resulted in an almost exclusively Hispanic, Spanish-speaking laborer workforce for a job that did not need Spanish proficiency for the effective performance of the job.

Rudy Sustaita, the EEOC's regional attorney in Houston, said, "We will continue to take action to ensure that employers do not violate Title VII by excluding individuals of certain races and national origins from employment because of an inability to speak a certain language when there is no business necessity for that language skill."

Connie Gatlin, the EEOC's senior trial attorney in charge of the case, added, "Maintaining a Spanish-speaking preference for a job which does not require a particular language skill and hiring only individuals referred by an employer's existing workforce, even if for convenience, may have a discriminatory impact on non-Hispanic applicants."

In addition to the monetary compensation to the class, the decree also contains injunctive relief.  It prohibits Champion from maintaining a Spanish-speaking preference and from engaging in word-of-mouth recruiting as its sole means of recruiting for the laborer position. Champion is also required to assist the EEOC in locating potential victims of the alleged discrimination; change its recruiting, outreach, and hiring to comply with the law; implement policies and procedures about hiring criteria, the application process, and records maintenance; and develop and maintain policies and procedures addressing illegal discrimination in the workplace, includ­ing com­plaint procedures and guidelines for investigating complaints of discrimination.

The EEOC is attempting to locate victims of the alleged discrimination. If you applied or attempted to apply for a laborer position with Champion at any time from Jan. 1, 2013 to the present and were denied an employment opportunity, please contact Connie Gatlin at connie.gatlin@eeoc.gov or 346-327-7710

The EEOC's Houston District Office is located on the sixth floor of the Leland Federal Building at 1919 Smith St. in Houston, Texas.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.