The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently announced that Plastipak Packaging, Inc. (“employer”) will pay $90,000.00 to settle a retaliatory discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC on behalf of a former female employee who the EEOC said the employer fired because she complained that another employee sexually harassed her. According to the EEOC, the employer, instead of investigating the complaint, chose to fire the employee.
In addition to the $90,000.00 settlement, the employer also agreed to a three-year consent decree enjoining the employer from engaging in retaliation at its Maryland facility, requiring it to implement a detailed policy prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation and to train all managers, supervisors, and employees on preventing sexual harassment and retaliation. Finally, the employer is also required to provide regular reports to the EEOC on how it handles any internal complaints of unlawful sexual harassment or retaliation and post a notice regarding the settlement.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
Plastipak’s settlement with the EEOC highlights the importance of having strong anti-harassment and retaliation policies in place and a well-trained management team capable of conducting a thorough investigation. Any chink in the armor could result in an administrative complaint being filed that could one day turn into a lawsuit, and if the EEOC or a state agency spearheads the lawsuit, any settlement will result not only in a monetary settlement, but intrusive and often burdensome injunctive relief provisions as well. In this instance, Plastipak will have the EEOC deeply involved in its business operations for the next three years and any slip up will result in further legal action.
The ever-expanding allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and impropriety against people in Hollywood, the media, and politics, and the increasing prevalence of movements such as Time’s Up and #MeToo aimed at spreading awareness of these issues and advocating for increased protection of alleged victims, including legal action, cannot and should not be ignored. Employers need to be vigilant in enforcing their policies to prevent harassment and discrimination in the first place and to take appropriate action when complaints are made. In addition to protecting employees and improving the workplace, employers will be better insulated from legal action. If you have questions about the adequacy of your company’s policies or require assistance in the training of your staff or with the handling of a harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation complaint, please contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group.