Press Release 04-10-2020

EEOC Sues Retailer of Luxury Crystal Products for Race and Disability Harassment

Employee Was Harassed and Forced to Quit Because of Intolerable Working Conditions, Federal Agency Charges

NEW YORK - Baccarat, Inc., which operates a retail store in Manhattan that sells luxury products made of crystal, violated federal law by tolerating race-based and disability-based harassment of an African American employee, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

According to the EEOC's complaint, Baccarat staff made derogatory and offensive comments on a near-daily basis about the employee's race. Also, the two harassing co-workers re­peatedly made un­founded, derogatory comments related to the employee's dyslexia, including demeaning statements about his intellectual ability.

Initial complaints to the store's general manager and human resources department resulted in Baccarat providing employees with an anti-discrimination training. But the harassment persisted un­abated, the EEOC said. For at least two more years, the employee complained about the harassment to the general manager, but Baccarat never took effective remedial action. Because the employee could no longer tolerate the hostile work environment, he had no choice but to quit.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination (including harass­ment) based on race, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits the same misconduct based on actual or perceived disability. Both laws require employers to take prompt action to investigate and stop harassment based on race or disability after they receive notice of it.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Baccarat, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:20-CV-02918) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after first attempting a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination. The agency's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Kirsten Peters and supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Kimberly Cruz.

"The law requires employers that receive reports of harassment to investigate and take prompt corrective action to stop and remedy unlawful conduct in the workplace," said Judy Keenan, the EEOC's New York acting district director. "That includes harassment based on race and actual or perceived disability."

Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office, added, "The ineffective implementation of anti-harassment policies is essentially the same as not having any at all. The EEOC is committed to protecting the rights of all employees under Title VII and the ADA so that employees can work with dignity."

The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The New York District Office located in Manhattan conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.

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.