Sealy Management Company to Pay $88,785 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Suit

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

Female Assistant Manager of Apartment Management Company Was Subjected to Hostile Environment and Retaliatory Discharge, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Sealy Management Company, Inc., a property sale, rental and management company headquartered in Tuscaloosa, Ala., that owns and manages apartments in Alabama and three other states, has agreed to pay $88,785 and take other steps to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

In its suit, the EEOC charged that the supervisor and co-worker of an assistant manager spread false, sexually explicit rumors about her – specifically, that she received a promotion because she slept with the company president. The assistant manager repeatedly complained to management, but Sealy failed to properly investigate, took no effective remedial action, and suspended her after she complained. After the assistant manager filed a charge with the EEOC, Sealy placed her on unpaid leave. When she resigned, Sealy recharacterized her resignation as a termination for violation of company policy.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliation against employees who complain or file EEOC charges about sexual harassment.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (EEOC v. Sealy Management Company, Inc., Civil Action No. 7:20-cv-01505-LSC) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires Sealy to revise its anti-discrimination policy and procedures, provide training to all employees and post written notice to employees of their right to a discrimination-free workplace.

“The false and malicious rumor spread by Sealy’s employees created a hostile work environment that the victim endured for over a year,” said Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District. “The EEOC is pleased that the parties were able to reach early resolution and that Sealy will compensate the victim and implement safeguards aimed at preventing future discrimination, including training staff.”

EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson said, “Spreading workplace rumors that a woman was hired or promoted because of a sexual relationship and not on her merit can create a hostile work environment. This case illustrates why employers should have strong policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment, including policies against this kind of rumormongering.”

The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in 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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