Press Release 03-03-2020

Porous Materials to Pay $93,000 to Settle EEOC Harassment and Retaliation Suit

 Former Plant Manager Bullied Employees, Then Fired Employee Who Complained, Federal Agency Charged

NEW YORK - Porous Materials, Inc., an Ithaca, N.Y., manufacturer, will pay $93,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race, sex, and national origin harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced.

According to EEOC's lawsuit, Porous subjected its employees to an ugly mix of sexism, racism and national origin discrimination. A former plant manager used racial slurs, called foreign-born employees "terrorists," and made crude racist remarks to the only black employee involving a noose. He also said that he was "sick" of immigrants stealing American jobs, mocked emp­loyees for speak­ing other languages, and urged immigrant employees to leave America.

The EEOC's suit also charged that the plant manager was similarly abusive toward women. He loudly called women vulgar names and said that women could not perform a "man's job." He made unwanted sexual advances and commented on female employees' bodies. The company owner, rather than putting a stop to the behavior, also treated female employees more harshly than males, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits dis­crim­ination - including harassment - based on race, national origin, and sex, as well as retaliation for complaining about it. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York (EEOC v. Porous Materials, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-01099) after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  

In addition to the $93,000 in monetary relief, the four-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Porous to provide extensive training to its owner and all employees and managers, retain an outside entity to investigate discrimination complaints, and modify its anti-discrimination policy. Porous must also promptly report to the EEOC about its handling of discrimination complaints. The EEOC will monitor Porous's compliance with these obligations for the next four years.

"The brave workers who came forward made this settlement possible," said EEOC trial attorney Daniel Seltzer, who litigated this case along with supervisory trial attorney Nora Curtin. "The changes required by the consent decree should protect future Porous employees from harassment in the future."

Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office, said, "Harassment prevention starts at the top. And just having an anti-harassment policy doesn't cut it. When owners and executives aren't committed to a respectful workplace, abuse can often follow."

The EEOC's New York acting district director, Judy Keenan, added, "Retaliating against employees who complain about harassment has a chilling effect and hurts future harassment victims. The EEOC will vigorously enforce the federal laws that prohibit such misconduct."

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

Preventing systemic harassment through enforcement and targeted outreach is a national priority identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). To learn more about the  EEOC's strategic plan and enforcement priorities, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep-2017.cfm

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.