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EEOC Resolves Harassment Case Where Foreign-Born Employees Told “Go Back” To Where You Came From

Forms lawsuit is on the table

In a press release issued on March 3, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree to settle a national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against Porous Materials, Inc. (Porous). On September 13, 2018, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Porous Materials, Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-01099, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. In the Consent Decree, which was signed by U.S. District Court Judge David M. Hurd on March 2, 2020, Porous agreed to pay $93,000 to resolve the lawsuit.

The EEOC brought the national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of Porous, Jessica Howard (Howard). Under Title VII, employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees on the basis of their national origin. National origin harassment is a form of national origin discrimination prohibited by Title VII. Title VII also protects employees from retaliation when they complain about perceived national origin discrimination in the workplace.

The EEOC claims that Porous violated Title VII by allowing its plant manager to subject Howard to discriminatory harassment based on her national origin. The EEOC further claims that Porous violated Title VII by firing Howard in retaliation for complaining about the discriminatory harassment. In this article, our Marion County, Florida hostile work environment attorneys explain the EEOC’s allegations against Porous.

EEOC Alleges Discriminatory Harassment

Porous is a manufacturer of testing equipment for porous materials, with its main facility in Ithaca, New York. Howard, who was born in France, was employed by Porous as a laboratory technician. In this position, Howard was supervised by the plant manager at the Ithaca facility where she worked. The EEOC claims that the plant manager subjected Howard and other foreign-born employees to harassment because of their national origin.

The EEOC alleges that the plant manager routinely made xenophobic comments to foreign-born employees, such as asking foreign-born employees why “you guys” take American jobs, stating that the hated or was “sick” of immigrants, and remarking that immigrants did not speak English and were taking over America. The plant manager also told employees born in other countries to “go back” to the countries in which they were born. On one occasion, the plant manager told an employee of Indian national origin that he could not wear a backpack on a work-related errand because he would be mistaken for a terrorist. The EEOC further claims that the plant manager repeatedly yelled at employees for speaking non-English languages, even while on break from work, and told them not to speak other languages because “we’re in America.”

EEOC Alleges Retaliatory Discharge

Although the plant manager threatened to fire anyone who complained about him, Howard and other employees responded to the plant manager’s discriminatory remarks by asking him not to speak that way and by telling him that his comments were inappropriate. The EEOC alleges that the plant manager frequently made discriminatory remarks to foreign-born employees “right in front” of Porous’ human resources manager. However, the EEOC contends, Porous took no action to prevent the plant manager’s discriminatory harassment from continuing. The EEOC claims that Porous acted on the plant manager’s threats of retaliation by firing Howard in retaliation for complaining about the plant manager’s discriminatory harassment.

Protecting Employees From Harassment

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In enforcing the federal civil rights laws, the EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of employees who have been discriminated against based on their national origin. In a press release issued by the EEOC regarding the case, the Acting Director for the EEOC’s New York District Office, Judy Keenan, explained that “retaliating against employees who complain about harassment has a chilling effect and hurts future harassment victims.” “The EEOC will vigorously enforce the federal laws,” Ms. Keenan added, “that prohibit such misconduct.”

Consult With Ocala Hostile Work Environment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida hostile work environment attorneys have been fighting against employers who have required employees to work in a hostile work environment for more than twenty years. If you have experienced discriminatory harassment in the workplace or have questions about your rights as a foreign-born employee, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida hostile work environment lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take hostile work environment 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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