NDI Office Furniture to Pay $150,000 to Settle EEOC Sex Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Furniture Distributor Refused to Hire Women for Warehouse Work and Fired Female Applicant's Son After She Complained About Discrimination, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINIGHAM, Ala. – Nashville-based NDI Office Furniture, LLC, the largest office furniture distributor in the Southeastern and Midwest United States, has agreed to pay $150,000 and furnish other significant relief to settle a federal lawsuit charging sex discrimination and retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, in September 2015, a female applicant attempted to apply for an open position at NDI's Birmingham warehouse. She was advised by NDI’s management that NDI did not hire women for warehouse positions. In response, she complained directly to NDI’s president that such policy was discriminatory. Within weeks of her complaint, NDI fired her son, who was an employee, and failed to offer her a position.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to fail to hire an individual because of sex. Title VII also prohibits an employer from terminating an employee because of a close relative's discrimination complaint. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. NDI Office Furniture, L.L.C., Case No. 2:18-cv-1592-JHE) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama after an investigation was completed by the EEOC's Birmingham District Office and after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency sought back pay as well as compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief on behalf of the mother and son, who were the original complainants, and a class of women discrimination victims.

In addition to $150,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit requires NDI Office Furniture, LLC to provide training to its employees, supervisors and managers on its obligations under the law and modify its anti-discrimination policy as necessary to comply with the Title VII. The decree also prohibits NDI Office Furniture, LLC from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation because of sex and requires the company to post notices on its bulletin boards informing employees of their right to contact the EEOC if they feel they have been discriminated or retaliated against.

“Sex-based barriers to employment persist today, particularly in historically male-dominated fields,” said Bradley Anderson, district director of the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “Employers should make employment decisions based on an applicant’s ability instead of outdated gender stereotypes. Title VII protects men, as well as women, from being denied employment opportunities based on their sex.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker added, “The EEOC remains vigilant in challenging systemic hiring discrimination. When necessary, we remain at the ready to file suit against employers who have antiquated policies prohibiting the hiring of women for certain jobs. Further, this case serves as reminder of Title VII's prohibition against third-party retaliation. Title VII protections against retaliation extend to third-party friends or family members of a party who files a workplace discrimination complaint.”

According to company information, NDI Office Furniture, LLC is a Tennessee corporation which covers most of 15 states in the Southeast and has three distribution centers in Ocala, Fla., Birmingham, Ala., and Dallas, Texas, as well as a corporate office and Southeastern customer service center in Nashville, Tenn.

One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan is to eliminate barriers in recruitment and hiring.

The EEOC’s Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 Northern counties), and the Florida Panhandle.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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