BALTIMORE – MVM, Inc., an Ashburn, Va.-based diversified security services firm, will pay $200,000 in monetary relief and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal class sexual harassment and retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, MVM’s site manager at the Social Security Administration’s Woodlawn, Md., campus subjected a female security guard to sexual harassment, including unwanted physical touching and lewd sexual comments. When the manager cornered the guard on an elevator and kissed her without her consent, she complained to management. Two weeks later, MVM fired her in retaliation.
The same manager subjected a class of female employees to inappropriate sexual comments and unwanted touching, the EEOC said, including making sexual advances and crude comments about their appearance, requesting explicit pictures, pushing himself an employee, and trying to kiss another. Although supervisors and high-level managers witnessed the harassment, MVM allowed it to continue unabated.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on sex. Title VII also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because she complained about harassment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. MVM, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02881-TDC) 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 $100,000 in monetary relief to the female security guard who was harassed and terminated and $100,000 to the class of female employees that the EEOC identified as experiencing unlawful sexual harassment. The decree enjoins MVM from engaging creating a hostile work environment based on sex and from engaging in retaliation in the future.
In addition, MVM must implement equitable relief, including modifying the security guard’s records to reflect a voluntary termination and providing a mitigation letter for future employment background checks; training of employees; and the appointment of a vice president of human resources as an internal consent decree monitor.
“MVM’s site manager exploited his authority by making unwanted sexual advances towards his subordinates,” said EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “MVM management made the situation even worse by ignoring the manager’s ongoing conduct and firing a harassment victim for complaining. The EEOC is here to stop such misconduct and make sure it does not recur.”
EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson said, “When an employer knew or should have known about sexual harassment, it cannot escape liability by simply relying upon the promulgation of an anti-harassment policy. The employer has an affirmative duty to take actions reasonably calculated to prevent and remedy the harassment.”
The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC's Baltimore Field Office, one of four component offices of the 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.
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan. In 2015, the Commission convened a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, led by then-Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum and then-Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic.
The report of that task force includes detailed recommendations for harassment prevention, including a chart of risk factors that may permit harassment to occur; effective policies and procedures to reduce and eliminate harassment; recommendations for future research and funding; and targeted outreach. In addition, it offers a toolkit of compliance assistance measures for employers and other stakeholders. It can be found on the agency's website at https://www.eeoc.gov/meetings/meeting-june-20-2016-rebooting-workplace-harassment-prevention.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov