Sexual harassment – streaming security camera footage of the breasts of a female employee onto a desk computer; racial harassment – using the “N-word” to Black employees; and national origin harassment – refusing restroom breaks to Haitian workers and throwing chicken parts at them, were the subjects of three lawsuits just filed by the EEOC. Two employees were allegedly retaliated against (which is on the EEOC’s radar), and one claims that she was forced to quit.
In the racial harassment case, black employees were repeatedly subjected to derogatory racial comments and slurs by a white employee at a North Carolina mattress manufacturer and distributor, such as being called the “N-word.” (Readers will recall that we previously wrote a lot about this word’s ubiquitous use in racial cases). The employee complained to company management, the harassment continued, and he was fired.
An EEOC attorney said that “Companies must ensure that they do not allow racial slurs to be used in the workplace, and that they take prompt and effective action in response to complaints of such misconduct. Employers must also remember that retaliation against people who complain about illegal employment discrimination is itself against the law. The EEOC will vigorously enforce these federal laws.”
In a second suit just filed, a Minnesota office furniture and supply company is alleged to have permitted its operations manager to “commandeer” the company’s security camera system to stream hours of footage of a former female employee’s breasts and body onto his office computer.
The employee, upon learning of this, notified another manager and the company owner, but no steps were taken correct the situation and so the employee resigned.
The EEOC Chicago District Director said that this was an “egregious case” of sexual harassment: “Security cameras in the workplace are almost as common as computers. No one should ever have to worry that this constant monitoring is being used to satisfy their boss’s sexual fantasy.”
Finally, in a retaliation case filed against a Delaware poultry processing facility, the EEOC alleged that an employee who worked as a translator for the many Haitian workers complained to his supervisors and HR that the Haitian workers were being treated poorly: “supervisors often refused to allow the Haitian workers to take bathroom breaks while allowing non-Haitian workers to do so and refused to provide the Haitian workers with the training necessary for the higher-paying jobs at the facility. … Haitian workers were often harassed by their non-Haitian supervisors and coworkers by having chickens and chicken parts thrown at them.”
The translator was fired, and the EEOC sued claiming that he was retaliated against for complaining of national origin discrimination.
The takeaway for the Labor Day get-away is that: (1) the EEOC is cracking down in the area of the ever-increasing number of retaliation cases filed; (2) harassment in the workplace of any sort is considered a prime candidate for the EEOC’s attention; (3) use of the “N-word” does not seem to be diminishing — as we have observed and reported; and (4) American employers have a long way to go before the can dispense with employment lawyers (sorry!).