Female Laundry Workers Receive $582,000 In Settlement of EEOC Sexual Harassment Case
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2015
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Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc. will pay $582,000 to eight former Latina employees to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The company also agreed to implement new procedures and training on sexual harassment for all employees to ensure that these abuses do not reoccur in the future.
The lawsuit against the Southampton-based company was brought on behalf of the workers by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the law firm of Outten & Golden.
The EEOC charged that Suffolk Laundry’s manager physically and verbally sexually harassed multiple women who worked at the facility. Over the course of several years, the manager regularly touched them on their buttocks, hips, and backs, forcibly kissed one of them and made comments about their appearance and body parts.
The workers were all recent immigrants from Mexico or Central America who did not speak English and were largely unaware of their rights before they were put in touch with LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Sister Margaret Smythe of the North Fork Hispanic Apostolate in Riverhead had in the Fall 2010 contacted former LatinoJustice Skadden Fellow Elizabeth Joynes’ Latinas at Work (“LAW”) Project about the problem.
LatinoJustice’s LAW Project subsequently filed an administrative complaint with the EEOC on behalf of the 7 workers in 2011. After an investigation, the EEOC issued a determination sustaining the charges and found that the company had subjected the complainants and a class of similarly situated female employees to sexual harassment, a sexually hostile work environment, constructive discharge and retaliation for refusing a supervisor’s sexual advances.
The EEOC subsequently sued the company in federal court for violating Title VII, which prohibits gender discrimination and sexual harassment. LatinoJustice and Outten & Golden successfully intervened in the case on behalf of our seven clients to assert additional state law claims as well as suing the two individual owners of the company as defendants to hold them personally liable.
“We applaud the brave women who came forward to hold their employers accountable for a workplace rife with unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment,” said Make the Road New York Senior Staff Attorney Elizabeth Joynes. This resolution sends a strong message to companies throughout New York that discrimination will not be tolerated.”
“This case stands as a testament to the value and importance of asserting one’s right to self-respect in the workplace to ensure that change occurs,” said LatinoJustice PRLDEF Senior Counsel Nancy Trasande. “It is a lesson that we hope our clients carry forward to others to ensure progress within their community.”
LatinoJustice PRLDEF President and General Counsel Juan Cartagena said, “These women work hard at their jobs and should not be subject to this kind of behavior by their employers. LatinoJustice is ready to pursue these cases and to shine a light on discrimination and retaliation whenever it happens.”
The consent decree resolving the case provides that, in addition to paying $582,000, Suffolk Laundry will adopt new procedures to prevent sexual harassment and will train its managers and staff on identifying and preventing sexual harassment and retaliation. The policies and staff training will be available in English and Spanish. The EEOC will monitor Suffolk Laundry’s compliance with these obligations and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the next three years.
“This resolution represents yet another example of EEOC's efforts to end discriminatory workplace practices against vulnerable workers who often live in the shadows of the economy,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “We are grateful to these women for coming forward and to our partners who helped us resolve this case.”
Adela Santos, the trial attorney from the New York District Office who is lead counsel on the case, added, “These women will now finally receive compensation for the abuse they suffered and we are confident that, with the consent decree in place, no more employees will be victimized in the future.”
The case is EEOC v. Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc. (E.D.N.Y. Case No. 12-CV-409). LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Outten & Golden, and Make the Road New York represented the seven intervenor plaintiffs.