Staffing Company Denied Employee Future Work Assignments After She Complained About Abuse, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO - Anchor Staffing, Inc., a Chicago-based staffing agency, will pay $30,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC's lawsuit charged Anchor Staffing with violating an employee's federal civil rights when it failed to respond adequately to the employee's complaint about sexual harassment, removed her from her work assignment, and denied her any future work.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Anchor Staffing placed its employee Sara Magana on a temporary assignment, and on her first day working at the job location, she was sexually harassed by another Anchor Staffing employee who made intimidating comments and attempted to hug and kiss her. In response to Magana's harassment complaint, Anchor Staffing removed Magana from her assignment but allowed the alleged harasser to continue working. Furthermore, despite Magana's availability to work, Anchor never again placed Magana to work on any assignment after she complained.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination (including sexual harassment) as well as retaliation in employment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (EEOC v. Anchor Staffing, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-7899) on Nov. 2, 2017, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Anchor Staffing will pay $30,000 in monetary relief to Magana as part of a consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood on June 21, 2018. The two-year decree also provides additional nonmonetary relief intended to improve the workplace for Anchor Staffing employees. For example, Anchor Staffing will train its staff on employment discrimination, including the employer's obligations under Title VII. Anchor Staffing will also be required to monitor employee complaints of sexual harassment and report those complaints to the EEOC.
According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, "Employers are not responding lawfully to employee complaints of harassment if their response makes the complaining employee worse off, but that is exactly what happened here. After Ms. Magana complained about being harassed, Anchor Staffing removed her from her work assignment and never placed her on any other assignments. An employer is only creating more trouble for itself when it punishes an employee for reporting unlawful misconduct."
The EEOC's regional attorney for the Chicago District, Greg Gochanour, added, "Staffing agency employees are protected by the federal antidiscrimination laws, as any other employee. Accordingly, staffing agencies must respond appropriately and effectively to their employees' complaints about harassment. Putting a complaining employee in a less desirable situation is never an appropriate response to a sexual harassment complaint."