Memphis, TN- Four employees at the Memphis location of North Carolina-based New Breed Logistics won a significant victory last month when a jury awarded three women and one man a $1.5 million sexual harassment and retaliation settlement.
The lawsuit was initiated by three women, who were sexually harassed, and one, man who opposed the harassment and agreed to testify in the company’s investigation, in 2012 after they were subjected to retaliation for filing a formal complaint.
The three women were temporary employees at the Avaya Memphis area warehouse. The jury found that a warehouse supervisor subjected the three temporary workers to “unwelcome sexual touching and lewd, obscene and vulgar sexual remarks,” Memphis Business Insider reported.
The three women along with their male co-worker complained to their superiors but after complaining the four employees were fired. The jury found that New Breed was also guilty of retaliation and fired the temporary employees for complaining about the harassment.
Retaliation often, but not always, accompanies allegations of sexual harassment and is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Companies that fire employees because they simply file a complaint incur a great deal of liability. They can be subjected to costly lawsuits and risk the possibility that the accused employee will harass future employees and create a hostile work environment. The fear of retaliation is a primary reason that employees tolerate sexual harassment even though they shouldn’t have to.
After a seven week trial the Tennessee jury ordered New Breed to pay the four former employees $177,094 in back pay, $486,000 in compensatory damages and $850,000 in punitive damages, the Memphis Business Journal reported.
In addition to the financial settlement, New Breed Logistics is facing an injunction that prohibits future incidents of sexual harassment.
There are numerous reasons why a company fails to address these harassment complaints when they arise. In some instances, employers don’t believe the allegations are true or don’t consider the behavior pervasive enough to actually take action against the offending employee.
While there are cases where sexual harassment complaints are not legitimate, a company is ultimately responsible for making certain their employees are safe from harassment and discrimination. If they fail to investigate a compliant or fail to take action against the offender, an employee, after filing a formal complaint, can seek outside assistance by talking with a sexual harassment attorney to determine if their case can be pursued in court.
The employees enlisted the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file the civil suit. While the EEOC won a significant judgment in this case, many people choose to hire private employment lawyers because that are capable of securing larger settlements for their clients because federal law limits the amount the EEOC can sue a company for.
Any employee who has been the victim of sexual harassment doesn’t have to tolerate the behavior or fear they will lose their job for speaking up. A Tennessee sexual harassment attorney will make certain your rights and job are protected from a hostile work environment.