OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Goodwill Industries of the East Bay Area and an affiliate have agreed to pay $850,000 to eight current and former employees to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday.
According to the suit the EEOC filed in federal court in Oakland against Goodwill and affiliate Calidad Industries Inc., six female janitors assigned to work the night shift at the federal building in Oakland faced routine sexual harassment by their direct supervisor.
The plaintiffs in the case included young women with developmental disabilities who were relatively new to the workforce and were employed by Goodwill and Calidad’s janitorial operations under a federal government contract.
The EEOC also charged that two managers were unfairly criticized and disciplined in retaliation for supporting the women’s sexual harassment claims and one manager was forced to resign.
Former employee Crystal Edwards said in a statement, “I was only 19 years old when I worked at Calidad. It was my first job and I enjoyed being able to earn my own money.”
Edwards said, “But after my boss put his arms around me, I did not feel safe at work and my complaints were ignored. I am glad the EEOC filed this lawsuit to stop the harassment and to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Former employee Phyllis Sloan said, “I reported the harassment as soon as it started but nothing changed. So I went to the EEOC and they were able to help me.”
Former manager Lisa Short said, “Within weeks of my start date, my employees trusted me enough to describe the harassment they faced on the nightshift. I knew my job could be on the line but I needed to make sure my workers were safe.”
EEOC officials said Short was concerned when higher management failed to take effective action so she sought help from the Federal Protective Service and ultimately helped the women in filing discrimination complaints with the EEOC.
EEOC officials filed the suit after an investigation conducted by their investigator Christopher Green and attempting through its conciliation process to reach an out of court settlement.
According to the consent decree signed by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, Goodwill and Calidad will pay $850,000 to the plaintiffs in the case.
The decree also calls for the employers to revise their equal employment opportunity policies and complaint and investigation procedures, institute supervisor accountability policies concerning discrimination issues, train their workforce and hire a consultant to monitor any responses to future complaints.
The companies are also required to provide reports to the EEOC about adhering to the terms of the settlement.
EEOC San Francisco district director William Tamayo said, “The MeToo movement illustrates that sexual harassment impacts people across industries, from white collar to blue collar work, across class, race, age, gender and abilities.”
Turner said, “In this case, there were many factors that contributed to the vulnerability of these janitors: all were African-American and many were young females new to the workplace who had disabilities and were working the isolated night shift.”
According to its website, Calidad Industries is a nonprofit affiliate created by Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay in 1989 to provide employment and life skills training to people living with medically-certified physical, mental or psychological impairments.
Calidad says it focuses on providing its employees living with severe and long-term disabilities with paid on-the-job skills training and stable employment.
Goodwill Industries of the East Bay Area wasn’t immediately available for comment on the settlement.
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