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EEOC Settles Retaliation Lawsuit Claiming Employee Was Demoted For Complaining About Sex Discrimination

Aggression at work

In a press release issued on November 22, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree to settle a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against Compass Group USA, Inc. (Compass).  On March 1, 2018, the EEOC filed the case, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Compass Group USA, Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-00057, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process.

The EEOC brought the sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of an employee of Compass, Patricia Joyce (Joyce).  Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex.  Title VII also protects employees from retaliation when they complain about perceived sex discrimination in the workplace.  The EEOC claims that Compass discriminated against Joyce by failing to promote her to the position of sous chef because of her sex, female, and unlawfully retaliated against her by subjecting her to a compulsory transfer and demotion after she complained about the sex-based discrimination to which she was subjected.  In this article, our Citrus County, Florida unlawful retaliation lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations against Compass and the Consent Decree.

Employee Claims Unlawful Sex Discrimination

In April 2014, Compass hired Joyce to work as a shift supervisor at its University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) location.  Compass provides food and nutritional services to UTMB, including the operating a café on its premises and providing meals to patients in their rooms.  As a shift supervisor, Joyce was responsible for meal preparation and managing the kitchen’s staff.

In July 2014, Compass posted a vacancy announcement for the position of sous chef at UTMB.  The sous chef position is second in command over the kitchen, overseeing the kitchen staff and reporting directly to the Executive Chef.  According to the EEOC, Joyce met all of the qualifications for the sous chef position.  When she applied, Joyce had previously worked as a sous chef with a prior employer.  In addition to Joyce, there were two male applicants for the position.  The Executive Chef, who is male, at UTMB selected one of the males for the sous chef position.

Joyce met with the Executive Chef regarding the decision not to select her for the sous chef position.  During their meeting, the Executive Chef informed Joyce that the reason for the selection of a man for the position was that it was his belief that the kitchen was a man’s world.  In opposing the discriminatory remark, Joyce said that women should be treated fairly, and the selection process should be based on qualifications and experience.  Near the end of the meeting, the Executive Chef told Joyce that she should transfer to another location because she could not continue working at UTMB.

Employee Claims Unlawful Retaliation

Following their meeting, the Executive Chef sent Joyce an email.  In the email, the Executive Chef stated that the kitchen is a “man’s domain” and he was “trying to get it back that way.”  The Executive Chef also told Joyce that he did not “foresee” her “becoming a sous chef in this company.”  After receiving the email from the Executive Chef, Joyce lodged a complaint with Compass’ human resources department.  Presumably, human resources personnel contacted the Executive Chef about the complaint because the Executive Chef sent Joyce a second email.

In the second email, the Executive Chef once again stated that the kitchen is a “man’s domain” and stated that Joyce would “never hold a sous chef position within this company as long as I am the Executive Chef.”  The Executive Chef concluded his email by stating that he is “untouchable here” and that he “strongly suggest[s]” that Joyce transfer to another location.  After receiving this email from the Executive Chef, Joyce then transferred to another location.  However, Joyce was no longer employed as a shift supervisor.  Instead, Joyce was required to work as a line cook, which resulted in a decrease in pay.

Consent Decree Compensates Retaliation Victim

In the Consent Decree settling the lawsuit, which was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown on November 12, 2019, Compass agreed to pay Joyce $10,000 to resolve the sex discrimination and retaliation case.  In the Consent Decree, the EEOC required Compass to provide training to employees at two of the company’s locations on Title VII’s prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex and against retaliation in the workplace.

EEO Law Forbids Retaliation

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 anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of sex discrimination and retaliation.  In a press release issued by the EEOC on November 22, 2019 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, Rudy Sustaita, stated that the “EEOC seeks to ensure that individual employers understand that assumptions about gender roles should have no place in workplace decisions.”

Free Consultation With Inverness Retaliation Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Citrus County, Florida unlawful retaliation attorneys have litigated retaliation cases in Florida and federal courts for almost two decades.  If you have been retaliated against for complaining about discrimination at work or have questions about your protection from retaliation under the federal civil rights laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Citrus County, Florida unlawful retaliation lawyers.  Our employment 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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