On March 24th, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that a Maryland staffing company will pay more than $2.6 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit. The EEOC obtained the default judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division. Briefly, the lawsuit alleged that the company excluded female workers from specific job assignments and duties. This lawsuit is consistent with the EEOC’s recently stated priorities. The agency released its 2023-2027 Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) in January 2023. In the SEP, the EEOC stated it would pursue employers that withhold training or other employment opportunities based on protected characteristics, including sex and gender.
Overview of the Gender Discrimination Case
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the Maryland staffing company violated federal equal employment opportunity law through a pattern of gender discrimination against female workers. Specifically, the company discriminated against female workers in two ways:
- refusing to hire women for, or assign them to, demolition or laborer positions because of their sex; and
- assigning other work duties on the basis of sex (e.g., performing cleaning work instead of equipment operation or demolition).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on protected classes, including race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. Indeed, the law makes it clear that it is unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Settlement in the Gender Discrimination Lawsuit
Initially, the EEOC attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the company through its conciliation process. Ultimately, the agency filed suit on July 13th, 2021. In EEOC v. Green Jobworks LLC, the district court entered a default judgment against the company. The court awarded 48 female workers a total of $2,692,265 in monetary relief. The sum amount included $665,566 in lost wages with interest. In addition to the wages, the company incurred $2,026,698 in punitive damages for its “reckless indifference to the rights of those workers.” In the court’s opinion, the company showed a pattern or practice of gender discrimination.
Harassment & Discrimination Prevention Training for Employees
Various court decisions and agency guidance have clarified that employers must take reasonable steps to prevent harassment and discrimination from occurring. Failure to take reasonable prevention measures can result in a finding of employer liability during a harassment or discrimination lawsuit. To help employers prevent discrimination in their workplace, Personnel Concepts created the Harassment & Discrimination Prevention Training eLearning module. This interactive training course discusses forms of workplace harassment and discrimination under federal law, how to prevent them, and addresses ways to report complaints. Additionally, employers receive a printable, fill-in-the-blanks Employee Harassment Complaint Form with which they can document complaints of workplace harassment.