Cheyenne Company Failed to Address Sexual Harassment, Later Fired Woman Who Complained, Federal Agency Charged
DENVER - A Cheyenne, Wyo., contracting company unlawfully retaliated against its only female electrician after she complained that she had been sexually harassed, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
According to the lawsuit, Jennifer Johnson complained to the owner and manager of Superior Electric and Communications, Inc. about being sexually harassed by her male supervisor at a company construction site. Shortly after she complained, she was fired because of her complaint, the EEOC charged.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits both sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v Superior Electric and Communication, Inc., Case No. 13-CV-182-F) in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress, and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting future retaliation, as well as Johnson's reinstatement.
"Employers have an obligation under federal law to prevent and stop sexual harassment and to take complaints about sexual harassment very seriously," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, whose jurisdiction includes the EEOC's Denver Field Office and the state of Wyoming. "And they should absolutely never compound the problem by retaliating against employees for complaining about it."
Retaliation complaints filed with the EEOC have risen dramatically in recent years, and now constitute more than 38% of the discrimination charges that the agency receives nationwide.
Denver Field Office Director Nancy Sienko added, "It is particularly important for employees to feel safe when they speak out against sexual harassment in a workplace. This is precisely the reason our laws prohibit retaliation, and it is why we continue to vigorously enforce people's rights to protest discrimination without fear of losing their jobs."
Superior Electric and Communications, Inc. subcontracts to provide electrical and communications installation and repairs for general contractors on a variety of construction projects.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, including disability and retaliation discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.