Female Employees Subjected to Sexual Harassment by Male Supervisor and Retaliated Against for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged
DENVER - The Original HoneyBaked Ham Company of Georgia, based in Alpharetta, Ga., will pay $370,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Colorado, the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, female HoneyBaked Ham employees in Colorado stores were subjected to sexual harassment and were fired or otherwise retaliated against if they complained. The lawsuit springs from the charge of discrimination brought to the EEOC by Wendy Cabrera, a former supervisor in the Highlands Ranch, Colo., store. The EEOC charged that Cabrera and other female employees were harassed, but when she reported her complaint up the chain of command and to HoneyBaked Ham headquarters in Georgia, she was terminated.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. The Original HoneyBaked Ham Company of Georgia, Inc., Case No. 1:11-cv-02560-MSK-MEH) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
HoneyBaked Ham has agreed to pay $370,000 to Cabrera and a class of female employees to resolve this case. The company entered into a consent decree and agreed to ensure that all of its employees are trained on sexual harassment and the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII, and managers are additionally to receive training on handling sexual harassment and how to respond to complaints. HoneyBaked Ham will also report to the EEOC on gender discrimination, including sexual harassment complaints in Colorado during the decree's duration.
"In my eyes, justice has been served, positively impacting all of our lives in a way that we will never forget in our lifetime," Cabrera said.
Courtney Luhrsen, who the EEOC also alleged was subject to sexual harassment at her store in Aurora, told the EEOC, "I know my thanks is minimal in the broad scope of it all, but you need to know having someone fighting for our rights with such determination is immeasurable. I'll never forget all you have done."
Alex Fye, who worked with Cabrera at the Highlands Ranch store, expressed appreciation as well, saying, "It means the world to have had the EEOC defend us all. To know that justice has been done gives me peace of mind."
EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill said, "Sadly, sexual harassment remains a prevalent problem in many workplaces. Employers need to be very careful to respond to sexual harassment complaints -- to take them seriously and stop the sexual harassment, certainly not punish the victims. People subjected to this abuse often suffer in at least two ways -- first they suffer the indignity of sexual harassment and then again when they endure illegal and unfair retaliation for speaking the truth."
The EEOC has seen retaliation complaints become the most prevalent kind of charge filed with the EEOC over the last two years -- in fiscal year 2012, 38.1% of the charges filed with the EEOC were retaliation charges.
EEOC Denver Field Office Director Nancy Sienko added, "We are pleased that HoneyBaked Ham will take the needed steps under this agreement to improve awareness of sexual harassment and to establish procedures that protect employees who complain."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.