On October 28, 2015, a funeral home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The suit alleges that the owner of the funeral home subjected at least five of his female employees to egregious sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliated against two of them for complaining.
Allegations of sexual harassment
According to lawsuit filed by the EEOC, the sole owner and manager of the Florida funeral home, Albert McWhite, routinely subjected his female employees to constant egregious sexual harassment, The harassment included showing female employees pictures on his phone of naked women and of himself engaged in sex acts, putting his hand on his crotch and asking a female employee if she wanted him to take "care of her bills." He also subject them to unwanted sexual touching, including touching them on the breasts and buttocks.
Allegations of retaliation
One former employee filed an EEOC charge against him, and McWhite retaliated by giving negative references to her prospective employers. The suit also alleges that he retaliated against another employee after she refused to provide a supportive statement as part of the EEOC investigation. He reportedly reduced her hours and attempted to tamper with her probation proceedings.
Legal claims for sexual harassment
Subjecting employees to persistent and egregious sexual comments and conduct because of their sex, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This includes sexual harassment. A claim for sexual harassment requires evidence that an employee was subjected to unwelcome conduct, motivated by sex, and that the conduct either results in a tangible employment action, or is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. The first type of harassment, known as "quid pro quo" sexual harassment, typically occurs when the employee is given a choice between accepting the harassment or losing her job. The second type, the hostile work environment, is a more common type of claim, yet much harder to prove.
Remedies sought by the EEOC in the McWhite Funeral Home case
After an unsuccessful attempt to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages for all named claimants and a class of people subjected to the sexually hostile work environment and retaliation, back pay for two of the named claimants, and injunctive relief ordering the company to stop the harassing conduct, among other types of injunctive relief.
The EEOC's perspective on the case
The EEOC District Director, Ozzie Black, said that "[t]his case presents horrible sexual harassment and retaliation spearheaded by the company's sole owner and manager. Such blatant harassment and retaliation is precisely the kind of misconduct EEOC works to stop. No employee should be forced to work in such an environment." The EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg added,
Ownership and management of a company does not grant an employer license to sexually mistreat female employees and to threaten and retaliate against them for objecting and reporting the behavior. That violates federal law, and EEOC will vigorously investigate and prosecute such abuses.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment attorneys at Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.