Manager Did Not Address Harassment, Then Fired Employee for Complaining, Federal Agency Says
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – YS&J Enterprises, Inc., which does business in Winston-Salem’s Hanes Mall as Dairy Queen, violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to sexual harassment and then firing her for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, from approximately late March 2009 through Aug. 23, 2009 when her employment ended, Chastity Hill-Cox was subjected to harassment based on her sex by a male cashier. The EEOC contends that the harassment consisted of the cashier talking explicitly about his sexual encounters, and making sexual gestures in which he simulated sex acts. The lawsuit further alleges that the male cashier called Hill-Cox offensive gender-based epithets such as “b---h,” “c--t,” and “p---y” on a frequent basis. Hill-Cox complained about the harassment to the restaurant manager, but the harassment did not stop. According to the lawsuit, Hill-Cox, who was at work, and her mother called the Winston-Salem police to report the harassment. While the police were present at the restaurant responding to her complaint, the manager fired Hill-Cox, stating that Hill-Cox was “causing too many problems” for the company.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Y S& J Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Dairy Queen, (Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-01103), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for Hill-Cox.
“An employee should not have to tolerate any type of harassment based on sex, including profane gender-based name calling or another employee’s explicit and offensive stories about sex,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “That behavior has no place at work. Employers are liable when they fail to address harassment once they have knowledge that such behavior is occurring.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tina Burnside added, “The EEOC will vigorously enforce Title VII, which protects an employee’s right to complain about sexual harassment and not be fired in retaliation.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.