Here’s yet another example of how mishandling complaints of workplace bias and harassment can come back to bite employers.
The operator of a poultry processing facility in North Carolina will pay $48,000 and institute new anti-bias measures to resolve a lawsuit for retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Frantz Morette began working as a translator for a group of Haitian workers at Mountaire Farms, Inc.’s Lumber Bridge facility in December 2010.
Morette complained repeatedly to his supervisors and the human resources department that the Haitian workers were being treated poorly by Mountaire Farms’ supervisors as compared to their non-Haitian coworkers.
Morette told company management that supervisors often refused to allow the Haitian workers to take bathroom breaks while allowing non-Haitian workers to do so and refused to provide the Haitian workers with the training necessary for the higher-paying jobs at the facility.
Morette also informed company management that the Haitian workers were often harassed by their non-Haitian supervisors and co-workers by having chickens and chicken parts thrown at them.
Fired after reporting abuse
The EEOC said that about nine months into his employment, Morette notified one of the company’s managers that a supervisor was refusing to allow a Haitian worker to take a restroom break while allowing other non-Haitian workers to do so. A few days later, Morette was fired, the agency said, in retaliation for his complaints.
The EEOC filed suit against the employer in the summer of 2013, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $48,000 in monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Mountaire Farms to
- revise its existing anti-discrimination policy to include procedures for reporting discrimination
- give assurance that the company will protect the confidentiality of discrimination complaints to the extent possible
- give further assurance that Mountaire Farms will not retaliate or take action against a person who makes a complaint about discrimination, and
- institute a procedure for investigating such complaints. Mountaire Farms will also post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy at all of its facilities and train its employees on anti-discrimination laws annually.