Friday, February 4, 2011
EEOC Says It Has Settled Harassment Case With Bus Company
By a MetNews Staff Writer
One of the nation’s largest school transportation companies has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle claims that it failed to protect females employees from sexual harassment and retaliated against them when they complained, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said yesterday.
The commission announced the settlement with Ohio-based First Student, Inc. According to its website, the company transports 6 million students in 42 states every day.
The EEOC had charged that four female employees at the company were sexually harassed, retaliated against or forced to quit.
According to the EEOC, a male supervisor at its facility in Los Angeles sexually harassed at least four women, including bus drivers and a human resources assistant. The supervisor began by making constant explicit remarks about their body parts and the sexual acts he wanted to perform on them.
The harassment turned physical when the supervisor exposed himself, grabbed the breasts of a bus driver and rubbed his private parts onto her, the EEOC charged.
The EEOC also charged that a male manager who received their complaints of harassment not only failed to correct the situation, but also disciplined one victim and transferred another in retaliation for complaining. The harasser cut another bus driver’s hours upon refusal of his advances and promised extra hours to female employees who might acquiesce, the EEOC said.
Three of the victims felt forced to resign as a result of the ongoing harassment, constituting constructive termination, the commission charged.
The company contested the charges, and the commission filed suit in September 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
In addition to the penalty, First Student agreed to a consent decree, valid through 2012, which requires it to hire an outside EEO consultant to revamp its policies, complaint procedures, investigations and training of its employees on sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
First Student must also require supervisors to report such complaints to the human resources department within 24 hours of receipt and create a centralized tracking system for those complaints, the commission said, explaining that the decree covers First Student locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and the EEOC will monitor compliance.
“Last year, retaliation charges became the number one type of complaint that the EEOC received,” Olophius Perry, district director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, said in a statement
“The increase signals a widespread problem wherein employers seem to choose retribution over working toward eliminating the sources of discrimination in the workplace,” Perry said. “Employers must understand that workers have the right to complain, and it is illegal to retaliate against those that do.”
The case is EEOC v. First Student, Inc., CV 09-7102 RVBKx.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company