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EEOC Files Retaliation Lawsuit Claiming Employee Was Unlawfully Fired For Sexual Harassment Complaint

sexual harassment form being filled out

On June 13, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed a retaliation lawsuit against Hat World, Inc., d/b/a Lids (Lids) pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Under Title VII, employers are protected from retaliation when they complain about perceived sexually harassing behavior in the workplace. Title VII also protects employees from retaliation when they file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. As explained by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in McMenemy v. City of Rochester, 241 F.3d 279 (2d Cir. 2001), “the primary purpose” of Title VII’s anti-retaliation clause is to enable employees to have “unfettered access to Title VII’s remedial mechanisms.”

On June 13, 2019, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Hat World, Inc., Case No. 2:19-cv-314, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. The EEOC has brought the retaliation case on behalf of a former employee of Lids, Jalesa Staton (Staton). In this article, our Marion County, Florida retaliation lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations against Lids. 

EEOC’s Allegations Of Retaliation

In July 2013, Staton began working for Lids as an assistant store manager at Lids’ store in Chesapeake, Virginia. On February 3, 2016, according to the EEOC, Staton sent an email to Lids’ human resources office complaint line reporting sexually harassing behavior from her district manager. Staton complained that the district manager was making sexual comments and touching her. Because she did not receive a response to her email, Staton sent another email to Lids’ human resources complaint line inquiring about the status of her February 3, 2016 sexual harassment complaint. On March 14, 2016, Staton sent a third email to Lids’ human resources complaint line regarding the status of her February 3, 2016 sexual harassment complaint. Later that day, Staton received an email from Lids stating, “we have addressed your concerns and hope this issue will be resolved going forward.”

On January 31, 2017, Staton sent another email to Lids’ human resources complaint line reporting that on January 24, 2017 her district manager made sexual comments to her and accused her of having filed a false sexual harassment complaint against him. On February 10, 2017, Staton was notified that she would be reporting to a new district manager. On May 12, 2017, the new district manager and the former district manager who was the subject of Staton’s sexual harassment complaints prepared a final written warning against Staton. The EEOC claims that Lids’ subjected Staton to the final written warning in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaints.

On May 15, 2017, Lids transferred Staton to another store. The EEOC claims that Lids transferred Staton in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaints. The day after her transfer, Staton filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. On May 31, 2017, after learning that Staton had filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC claiming unlawful employment practices in violation of Title VII, Lids fired Staton. The EEOC claims that Lids fired Staton in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaints.

EEOC Protects Workers Against Retaliation

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of employment discrimination and retaliation. In a press release issued by the EEOC regarding the case, a Regional Attorney for the EEOC, Lynette Barnes, stated that “[a] company’s ability to provide a work environment free of unlawful sexual harassment is absolutely dependent on its employees being able to report harassment or file an EEOC charge without hesitation.” “Every time an employee complaint,” Ms. Barnes added, “leads to discipline and discharge, the entire work environment is placed at risk.”

Free Consultation With Ocala Retaliation Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have represented employment discrimination and retaliation victims in hundreds of cases before the EEOC. If you have been retaliated against for complaining about an unlawful employment practice of an employer or have questions about the anti-retaliation laws enforced by the EEOC, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida retaliation attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take retaliation cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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