San Jose Business Owner Retaliates Against Latina Employee With Frivolous Defamation Suit, Federal Agency Charges
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Peters' Bakery, a family-owned business in East San Jose, violated federal law when the principal owner verbally abused an employee using ethnic and racial slurs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. Additionally, the EEOC said Peters' Bakery retaliated against the employee by suing her in small claims court for defamation after she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
According to the EEOC, Charles "Chuck" Peters discriminated against sales clerk Marcela Ramirez due to her national origin, making insulting generalizations about Mexicans and using offensive epithets. Peters also attempted to force Ramirez to accept a layoff and fired her when she refused. In September 2011, Ramirez filed a grievance alleging discrimination with her union and a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
Peters filed a defamation action seeking damages in California Superior Court on April 19, 2012, but the court ruled in Ramirez's favor and dismissed the suit on May 21. Subsequently, at a union arbitration, the arbitrator found that Ramirez was terminated without just cause and ordered the bakery to reinstate her with back pay and benefits. Peters failed to adhere to the arbitration ruling for months and falsely accused Ramirez of misconduct, which became the basis of her third EEOC charge.
Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment harassment due to race or national origin, and protects workers who report such discrimination from retaliation. The EEOC filed the suit (CV 13-4507 HRL) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary damages, including punitive damages and damages for emotional distress, training on anti-discrimination laws and other injunctive relief.
"It is vital that EEOC sends the message that neither national origin harassment nor retaliation will be tolerated," said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. "Peters' Bakery filed a frivolous lawsuit in reprisal for Ms. Ramirez simply asserting her right to file an EEOC charge protesting the discrimination she faced. Fighting policies and practices that interfere with individuals exercising their rights, or that impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is one of six national priorities identified by this agency's Strategic Enforcement Plan, and we intend to pursue those priorities."
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado said, "The law is very clear. All employees have the right to work in an environment free from hostility, intimidation and ridicule. The EEOC upholds the laws that ensure that no one should have to endure racial or ethnic abuse at the workplace, and that no one should be fired for reporting it."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.