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Florida Employee Harassed Because She Is Hispanic EEOC Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit Alleges

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Having represented hostile work environment harassment victims for more than two decades, our Ocala, Florida discrimination attorneys know that employees continue to be targeted for discriminatory harassment based on their national origin. In too many cases, our Marion County, Florida discrimination lawyers have learned, employers do nothing once they learn that an employee is being harassed because of national origin. Instead of taking immediate and appropriate corrective action to stop the harassment, many employers tolerate the national origin-based harassment and require employees to work in a discriminatorily abusive work environment. In this article, our Ocala, Florida discrimination attorneys explain how a recent national origin discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates that employers are under a severe duty to protect employees from national origin-based harassment.

Discrimination Lawsuit

In a press release issued on May 4, 2021, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree settling a national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against Food Ventures North America, Inc., d/b/a/ Wild Fork Foods (Wild Fork Foods). On April 14, 2021, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Food Ventures North America, Inc., d/b/a Wild Fork Foods,  Case No. 1:21-cv-21389, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the Consent Decree, which was endorsed by the U.S. District Court Judge on May 4, 2021, Wild Fork Foods agreed to pay $130,000 to resolve the national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.

Discrimination Victims’ Rights

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 Wild Fork Foods, Belan Estacio (Estacio). Under Title VII, employees are protected against discrimination on the basis of national origin. In Espinoza v. Farah Manufacturing Company, Inc., 414 U.S. 86 (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court defined national origin as the “country where a person was born, or, more broadly, the country from which his or her ancestors came.”  This means that employees are protected from discrimination based on where they were born or from where their ancestors came.

Under well-established law, national origin harassment is a form of national origin discrimination forbidden by Title VII. National origin harassment which is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile work environment violates Title VII. Once an employer knows or should know that an employee is being harassed on the basis of national origin, the employer is obligated by Title VII to take prompt and effective remedial action to stop the harassment and prevent recurrence of the harassment. When the employer takes no remedial action, or inadequate remedial measures are taken to prevent recurrence of the harassment, the employer is liable under Title VII for creating or maintaining a hostile work environment.

Title VII also contains an anti-retaliation provision. Under Title VII, employees are protected from retaliation when they lodge a complaint of national origin harassment. This means that an employer cannot demote, fail to promote, cut the pay, discipline, suspend, or discharge an employee because the employee complained about perceived national origin harassment in the workplace.

The EEOC claims that Wild Fork Foods violated Title VII allowing Estacio, who is of Venezuelan descent, to be subjected to discriminatory harassment because of her national origin. The EEOC further claims that Wild Fork Foods violated Title VII by retaliating against Estacio because she complained about the discriminatory harassment.

EEOC Claims Discriminatory Harassment

Wild Fork Foods operations retail locations selling frozen food products. In June 2018, Estacio began working for Wild Fork Foods at its store in Miami, Florida. During her employment, according to the EEOC, Estacio was subjected to “severe and pervasive slurs regarding Hispanic people.” The relentless slurs “regarding Hispanic people,” the EEOC contends, created a hostile working environment based on Estacio’s national origin. The EEOC alleges that Estacio complained to human resources personnel about the discriminatory harassment. However, the EEOC maintains, Estacio’s complaint “resulted in her being retaliated against and being subjected to intensified harassment” based on her national origin. Because the discriminatory harassment continued despite her complaint, the EEOC contends that Estacio’s working conditions were so intolerable that she was compelled to quit on November 29, 2018 in order to escape the hostile working environment.

Attorneys For Discrimination Victims

The EEOC, which is an administrative agency of the federal government, is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal employment laws making discrimination, harassment, and retaliation unlawful employment practices. In order to preserve and protect the rights of employees under the federal employment laws, the EEOC files lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including national origin discrimination victims. In a press release issued by the EEOC on May 4, 2021 regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Paul Valenti, explained that “the failure by employers to effectively address discriminatory hostile work environments remains a persistent problem in the workplace.”

Ocala, FL Discrimination Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida discrimination lawyers have fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have been required to work in a discriminatory hostile work environment or have questions about your rights as an employment discrimination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination 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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