The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has obtained significant jury verdicts for damages totaling $260 million in disability discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits. These verdicts stress the importance for employers to maintain strict zero tolerance policies for discrimination and harassment. Employers must also provide proper training to employees and supervisors regarding how to identify and report instances of harassment and discrimination. An employer's swift and adequate response to employee complaints greatly minimizes the potential for future liability as a result of an EEOC class action lawsuit.
A federal jury awarded the EEOC the largest verdict in its history, with damages totaling $240 million against Hill County Farms d/b/a Henry's Turkey Service. The EEOC had presented evidence that the employer had exploited 32 workers with intellectual disabilities, which made them particularly vulnerable and unaware of the extent to which their legal rights were being violated. The EEOC alleged that the employer:
Subjected the workers to verbal abuse, including the terms "retarded," "dumb ass" and "stupid";
Subjected the workers to physical harassment such as hitting, kicking and at least one case of handcuffing;
Forced the workers to carry heavy weights as punishment;
Restricted their freedom of movement;
Required them to live in deplorable and substandard living conditions; and
Failed to provide adequate medical care when needed.
Another federal jury returned a unanimous verdict totaling over $20 million to eight former employees of Four Amigos Travel, Inc. and Top Dog Travel, Inc., a former Florida vacation agency. The EEOC claimed that the owner and supervisors had subjected a class of female employees to egregious sexual harassment and daily physical and verbal abuse, including unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching and repeated propositions for sex. The EEOC also claimed that the company fired a manager in retaliation for reporting the employees' complaints.
These cases highlight that the EEOC is following its Strategic Enforcement Priorities, which include the protection of vulnerable workers and the prevention of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and disability-based harassment. In accordance with its Strategic Enforcement Plan, the EEOC continues to file class action lawsuits in order to have the broadest impact on reducing employment discrimination.
Employee Management > EEO - Discrimination
Employee Management > EEO - Harassment
Employee Management > Disabilities (ADA)
Sexual Harassment Policy