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PRESS RELEASE
4-21-10

EEOC Settles Lawsuits for Sex and Race Harassment Against Preston Hood Chevrolet

Biloxi Car Dealer to Pay $120,000 to Resolve Multiple Charges

GULFPORT, Miss. – Biloxi, Miss.-based Preston Hood Chevrolet has agreed to pay a total of $120,000 to settle two employment discrimination lawsuits, one for sexual harassment and one for race harassment, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

In the sexual harassment case (SD MS Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-1266), the EEOC charged that during 2006 and 2007 Preston Hood subjected a class of female employees to harassment based on their sex and forced one employee to quit. In the race harassment lawsuit (MS Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-1265), the EEOC asserted that during 2007 Preston Hood subjected an African American employee to harassment based on his race. The EEOC said that the harassment in both cases was perpetrated by both management and non-management employees.

The women alleged they were subjected to sexually explicit, provocative and insulting language, pornographic material and unwelcome sexual advances. The black male employee alleged that he was subjected to racial slurs and racially derogatory language. In both cases the employees reported that they complained to management but no corrective action was taken.

Race and sexual harassment violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach pre-litigation settlements.

The consent decree settling the race harassment case requires Preston Hood to make payment to Rickey Hayes of $35,000 and to provide significant injunctive relief. In the gender discrimination case, the dealership will pay $85,000 to Lisa Battaglia, Rebeca Gonzalez and a class of former female employees.

In both cases, Preston Hood also agreed to provide significant injunctive relief, such as implementing and disseminating anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and procedures; providing training to managers and employees; posting a notice in the workplace explaining Title VII employee rights and employer obligations under the statute; promptly and thoroughly investigating and addressing complaints of race or sex based harassment; and taking steps to ensure that there will be no retaliation against employees who complain about conduct believed to be discriminatory.

“Every employee deserves the freedom to work in an environment free from any form of harassment,” EEOC Birmingham District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas said. "We are pleased that Preston Hood is now taking affirmative steps to improve the work environment. Employers should recognize that upon first receipt of a complaint of harassment, they must take prompt action to ensure that the misconduct stops.”

EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney C. Emanuel Smith added, “Workplace harassment is one of the most egregious and demeaning forms of discrimination. Employers who allow their employees to be victimized by this type of behavior need to know that serious repercussions may follow their inaction.”

According to its website, Preston Hood Chevrolet serves the Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., areas and specializes in the sale of new and used Chevrolet vehicles.

In 2009, the EEOC received 12,696 charges of sexual harassment and 33,579 charges alleging race-based discrimination, the latter accounting for 36 percent of the agency's private-sector caseload. Historically, race-based charges have been the most frequent type of filing with EEOC offices nationwide.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.