An Oswego, New York company recently settled a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging sexual harassment and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The parties entered into a settlement agreement about a week after the EEOC filed suit in federal court in EEOC v. Tioga Transport, Inc., No. 5:14-cv-00782, complaint (N.D.N.Y., Jun. 27, 2014). The company agreed to pay $17,500 in damages to the complainants, although the terms of the settlement agreement did not require it to admit fault.
The defendant, Tioga Transport, had a contract with Tioga County to provide public transportation and non-emergency Medicaid-related transportation. This included maintaining the county’s fleet of buses and employing bus drivers. The company’s contract expired in December 2013, after it reportedly did not submit a bid for renewal.
At least five female employees complained of hostile work environment and sexual harassment during a period from January 2011 through November 2013. The allegations centered on the company’s owner, whose conduct, according to the EEOC, included inappropriate sexual comments, “wagging his tongue and licking his lips in an obscene fashion while staring perversely at women’s breasts,” and “grazing his body against and/or touching women’s breasts.” Tioga, complaint at 3.
At least one of the employees complained to the company about this behavior, but the company did not take steps to stop it or prevent it from recurring. The EEOC alleges that this resulted in the employee’s constructive discharge, meaning that while the company did not fire her, it rendered her continued employment impossible due to the hostile work environment.
The EEOC issued a finding in June 2013 of “reasonable cause to believe that Title VII was violated,” id. at 4, and requesting that the defendant attempt to resolve the matter without litigation. It determined that efforts at conciliation had failed in September 2013 and filed suit in federal court in June 2014. The lawsuit asserted causes of action for violations of Sections 703 and 706 of Title VII. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2, 2000e-5. These sections prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual harassment, and authorize the EEOC to investigate and bring civil claims against employers for alleged violations.
The parties signed a consent decree on July 2, 2014, which was filed with the court on July 7. An order dismissing the lawsuit was filed the following day. The defendant agreed to an injunction, which includes its managers, officers, and others acting on its behalf, against “creating or maintaining a hostile work environment based on sex,” or other unlawful employment practices. Tioga, consent decree at 6. It must implement non-discrimination policies and procedures, and it must provide notice of the lawsuit, settlement, and policy to all of its employees. It must provide training for all employees, including supervisors and managers, regarding federal anti-discrimination law, with annual supplemental training. The company must make progress reports to the EEOC, which may also monitor and audit the company. Finally, it agreed to pay $17,500 in damages to the five complainants.
The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent the rights of people in New York City and surrounding areas who have experienced unwanted sexual advances and other forms of harassment by a supervisor or co-worker. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.
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Photo credit: Doug Kerr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr.