BALTIMORE – MVM, Inc., an Ashburn, Va.-based diversified security services firm, will pay $1,600,000 in monetary relief and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal systemic national origin and retaliation discrimination lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, government contractor MVM engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against Africans based on their national origin and retaliated against employees for complaining. MVM provided security services for the National Institute of Health (NIH) on each of its four Maryland research campuses. A project manager who oversaw approximately 400 security personnel, about half of whom were foreign-born Africans, complained that there were “too many Africans,” mocked their accents, and declared he would fire Africans to reduce their number on the contract, according to the suit.
Thereafter, the EEOC said, MVM systematically denied leave to African employees; forced them to work on their days off; subjected them to heightened scrutiny, suspension, threats of termination and trumped-up charges of misconduct and poor performance; and fired them without cause. The EEOC said that despite dozens of complaints to MVM corporate, the harassment continued, and MVM retaliated by reducing their hours; assigning them to undesirable posts; fabricating incidents of misconduct; and firing them.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. MVM, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:17-cv-02864) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
The two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit provides $1,600,000 in monetary relief to nine individuals who filed charges of discrimination and to a class of employees that the EEOC identified as experiencing unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation. The decree enjoins MVM from national origin discrimination against Africans and from engaging in retaliation in the future. In addition, MVM must implement equitable relief, including expungement of terminations and disciplinary records; providing security clearance / background letters; and appointing its vice president of human resources as an internal consent decree monitor.
“Employees are entitled to work in an environment free of offensive or derogatory remarks about their birthplace, ethnicity, culture, language or foreign accent,” said EEOC Assistant General Counsel Maria Salacuse. “Combating systemic harassment in the workplace remains a priority for the EEOC.”
EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence added, “We appreciate MVM’s willingness to work together with us to resolve this lawsuit so that those who were affected by the discrimination and retaliation can be appropriately compensated and the company implements appropriate equitable measures to ensure this does not happen again.”
“Employers have a responsibility to ensure that all employees are respected and treated fairly in the workplace regardless of their national origin,” said EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson. “They also must send a strong message to their workplace that complaints will be investigated and acted upon appropriately without retaliation.”
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The lawsuit was commenced by EEOC's Baltimore Field Office, one of four component offices of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.