Developer Fired Rastafarian Who Complained About Threat of Violence, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - Grand Central Partnership, Inc. will pay $135,000 and furnish other relief to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency said today. The EEOC had charged that the not-for-profit developer of real estate, offices, and facilities around Grand Central Terminal in New York City unlawfully fired a black Rastafarian security officer for his 2010 complaints of threats of violence and racism and his participation in an EEOC lawsuit resolved in 2009.
The EEOC's 2011 lawsuit asserted that a non-Rastafarian security officer threatened to shoot a group of Rastafarian officers. When the Rastafarians complained, a white security supervisor made light of the physical threat and implied the Rastafarians were at fault. One Rastafarian security officer objected to the supervisor's reaction and complained that he heard the supervisor had referred to the Rastafarians by the "N-word." The Rastafarian security officer immediately contacted EEOC about the incident. The EEOC said that Grand Central Partnership fired the security officer for this.
In 2008, the EEOC sued Grand Central Partnership for failing to accommodate the religious beliefs of four Rastafarian employees who needed modifications to its dress code. That lawsuit was resolved by a 2009 consent decree which prohibited Grand Central Partnership from retaliating against Rastafarian security officers for their participation in the lawsuit. The 2011 lawsuit alleged that Grand Central Partnership unlawfully terminated the Rastafarian security officer and breached the earlier consent decree which was still subject to supervision by the federal court.
In addition to the monetary relief which will be paid to the Rastafarian security officer, the new consent decree requires Grand Central Partnership to conduct extensive training on investigating discrimination complaints, including methods for proper documentation and unbiased assessment of witness credibility. The decree also requires Grand Central Partnership to regularly report to EEOC about any further complaints of religious discrimination or retaliation.
"When the EEOC enters into a consent decree, it will remain involved to assure that an employer does not punish those who complained about discrimination," said Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney of the EEOC's New York District Office. "We are hopeful that this second consent decree with Grand Central Partnership will ensure that future discrimination does not occur."
Kevin Berry, director of EEOC's New York District Office, said, "Threats of workplace violence are often targeted at people of color and those who hold certain religious beliefs. The EEOC encourages victims of such threatened violence to come forward."
EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.