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Press Release 03-07-2022

EEOC Sues North Georgia Foods For Sex Harassment and Retaliation At Murphy Burger King

Employer Allowed Abuse of Pregnant Employee and Fired Her After She Complained, Federal Agency Charged

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – North Georgia Foods, Inc., a Georgia-based company operating as Burger King in Murphy, North Carolina, unlawfully discriminated against a pregnant employee, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today. The EEOC said the company subjected Tiffany Smith to a hostile work environment based on her sex, female, and retaliated against her for opposing the unlawful conduct by reducing her work hours and then firing her.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from at least August 2018 through approximately July 2019, Smith was a team member at North Georgia Foods’ Murphy, North Carolina location when she was harassed by a male assistant manager. The harassment included vulgar sexual comments, threatening behavior and unwelcome sexual touching. Smith complained multiple times and asked not to work alone with the male assistant manager. The defendant did not take action to stop the harassment but instead reduced Smith’s hours until she was removed from the schedule completely in June 2019. The company refused to communicate with Smith and later refused to reinstate her employment. The EEOC also said that Smith was discriminated against because of her pregnancy.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sexual harassment, retaliation, and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. North Georgia Foods Inc., d/b/a Burger King, Civil Action No.: 1:22-cv-00049) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief for Smith, including compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against the company to end any ongoing harassment or hostility and to take steps to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.

“An employer violates federal law when it fails to address sex-based harassment in the workplace,” said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "Title VII guarantees employees the right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, and it prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for complaining of such unlawful conduct.”

EEOC District Director Thomas Colclough said, “All employees deserve and should expect a workplace that is free of sex-based harassment and discrimination. The EEOC will continue to stand watch and demand that all types of unlawful harassment and discrimination are eradicated from the workplace.”

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Charlotte District Office is charged with enforcing federal employment discrimination laws in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.


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