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EEOC Files Retaliation Case Where Employee Was Fired Within Weeks After Sexual Harassment Complaint

Boss sexual harassing to blonde secretary at workplace

Having dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employees who have been wrongfully fired, our Marion County, Florida wrongful discharge attorneys have learned that many employers do not wait to punish employees who complain about sexual harassment.  When an employee is fired shortly after complaining about sexual harassment, the employer’s retaliatory motive can be inferred from the short passage of time between the employee’s complaint and termination.  In other words, as explained by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054 (9th Cir. 2002), the employer’s retaliatory motive can be inferred from “timing alone” when the employee’s termination “follows on the heels” of the employee’s sexual harassment complaint.  A retaliation lawsuit recently filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates that when an employee is fired on the heels of her sexual harassment complaint, a reasonable jury may find that the employee was unlawfully fired in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment.

Employee Claims Unlawful Discharge

In a press release issued on June 20, 2019, the EEOC announced that it has filed a retaliation lawsuit against Element Plastics Mfg., LLC (EPM) pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).  Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who complain about perceived sexual harassment in the workplace.  On June 20, 2019, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, EEOC v. Element Plastics Mfg., LLC, Case No. 4:19-cv-2218, 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 has filed the retaliation lawsuit on behalf of a former employee of EPM, Carmona Garcia (Garcia).  In this article, our Marion County, Florida wrongful discharge attorneys explain the EEOC’s allegations against EPM. 

EEOC’s Allegations Of Unlawful Retaliation

EPM is a manufacturer of plastics based in Sugar Land, Texas.  During her employment with EPM, Garcia was subjected to a sexual hostile work environment by her supervisor.  The supervisor’s sexually harassing behavior included physical touching of a sexual nature against Garcia, such as spanking her, hugging her, and attempting to hold her hands.  The supervisor also subjected Garcia to sexual propositions, such as asking Garcia for a picture of herself in a bikini that he intended to use for his own sexual gratification which he described in graphic detail.  The supervisor also repeatedly stated to Garcia that he intended to date Garcia once she turned 21.

Garcia engaged in statutorily protected activity under Title VII by complaining to management about the supervisor’s unwanted sexual behavior.  One week before she made the sexual harassment complaint, Garcia was given a raise of more than 14% for good performance and was assigned additional duties.  Approximately one month after she made the sexual harassment complaint, EPM terminated Garcia’s employment.

EEOC Enforces Employee Rights

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 victims of employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  In a press release issued by the EEOC on June 20, 2019 regarding the case, the Director for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, Rayford O. Irvin, stated that “[f]ederal law mandates that employees be free of sexual harassment in the workplace and protected from adverse employment actions as a result of complaining about such behavior.”  In commenting on the case, an EEOC Senior Trial Attorney, Connie Gatlin, added that “allowing sexual harassment to flourish unchecked and punishing an employee for complaining about it constitutes workplace discrimination.”

Free Consultation With Ocala Wrongful Discharge Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida wrongful discharge lawyers have represented employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation victims in hundreds of cases before the EEOC.  If you have been retaliated against for complaining about sexual harassment or have questions about your protection from retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida wrongful discharge attorneys.  Our employment law attorneys take wrongful discharge 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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