Areej Saifan, a 19-year-old Muslim employee at a Chipotle restaurant in Kansas was subjected to religious harassment by her supervisor, Kevin Silva Garcia, who repeatedly asked her to remove her hijab. The harassment continued for several weeks, with the assistant manager even pulling off the her hijab, and exposing her hair. Despite reporting the behavior to a shift supervisor, no action was taken to address the harassment, leading the employee to resign. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Chipotle on behalf of the employee, seeking backpay and other damages. This kind of harassment is unacceptable and goes against the right to work free from discrimination based on religious beliefs and practices. Chipotle must take responsibility for the actions of its employees and ensure that such behavior is not tolerated in the workplace.
Black Ex-employee Sues Rockwood for Discrimination
Brittany Hogan, the former Director of Educational Equity and Diversity at Rockwood School District, filed a lawsuit in February 2021, alleging that she was subjected to racial abuse by parents and that the administration ignored her complaints. Hogan served the district for eight school years but resigned in April 2021.
The lawsuit claims that Hogan received threatening messages through various channels, including email, phone, and social media, after promoting an anti-racism book called “Stamped” in December 2020. While the book was part of the district’s One Read program, Hogan did not choose it. District officials brought her in to discuss ways to promote the book, but Hogan faced backlash as a result.
The suit said Hogan began receiving racist messages through the district’s Twitter account, with one message saying Hogan and another Black Rockwood official should “work at a different school district where the students were Black.”
In January 2021, Hogan and her secretary began receiving threatening and profane phone calls and email messages, the suit said. One caller demanded that Hogan’s secretary disclose Hogan’s physical location. An email from a parent read, “I hope you sleep well at night …” which the lawsuit claims implied that Hogan might not be safe at night.
The lawsuit said Hogan’s secretary notified administrators about the threatening messages. It also said administrators took no action to protect Hogan, who at the time worked at an unsecured building near one of the district’s middle schools that made her vulnerable to possible altercations.
In February, a human resource employee told Hogan in a telephone call that things had become “out of control.” Still, the lawsuit said she received no assistance or written response.
On Feb. 4, 2021, Hogan emailed her supervisors to tell them she would not participate in the scheduled Feb. 10, 2021, reading of “Stamped” on Zoom with the community. In the email, she said she was being “trolled,” or harassed, by white supremacists on the Twitter diversity account, according to the lawsuit.
She also wrote in that email, “As the only Black woman in district leadership, I am concerned and uncomfortable of how quickly I’ve become the scapegoat of white rage,” the lawsuit said.
During a superintendent’s cabinet meeting in the first week of February 2021, copies of the threats Hogan had received on Twitter were given to every cabinet member. The lawsuit said the only action taken was on Feb. 8, 2021, when then-Superintendent Mark Miles told Hogan to block Twitter accounts harassing her.
Hogan’s lawsuit against the district alleges that they violated her rights by allowing race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The case lists several incidents throughout the 2020-2021 school year, supposedly demonstrating that Rockwood officials sidelined Hogan, making it impossible for her to perform her job effectively. The lawsuit claims the district created a hostile work environment, leading to Hogan’s constructive discharge.
Following the lawsuit, the Rockwood School District settled for $175,000 through an insurance policy, which included attorney fees and other costs. Hogan’s attorney, Javad Khazaeli, expressed Hogan’s desire to move on from the situation and focus on future endeavors.
Sparklean Laundry Fined Nearly $400K for Labor Violations
A real estate company, Sparklean Laundry, was found guilty of coercing its employees to pay kickbacks on wages that were initially recovered for them. The company was ordered to pay over $281,000 in damages for this act, and an additional $100,000 for retaliating against its employees who were exercising their labor rights. Benjamin Piper, who owned Fox Real Estate Group, Inc., the parent company of Sparklean Laundry, was also ordered to pay the damages.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced the order, which resulted from an earlier case where Fox Real Estate Group, Inc. refused to pay overtime to about 80 employees in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA is a law that protects workers against certain unfair pay practices, and it sets out labor regulations regarding employment across states, including minimum wages, overtime pay requirements, and child labor limitations. Passed in 1938, the FLSA is one of the most critical laws that employers need to understand, as it sets out a wide array of regulations for dealing with employees, whether salaried or paid by the hour.
After an investigation by the Department of Labor, Fox Real Estate Group, Inc. agreed to pay back the overtime wages it had refused to pay earlier. However, the company demanded kickbacks from the employees later and submitted fraudulent receipts purporting to show that the employees had received their recovered wages. The company also threatened the employees.
“Workplace retaliation is intolerable and illegal,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “The Department of Labor will use all of its tools to combat retaliation, including through requiring employers who retaliate to compensate workers above and beyond the wages their workers are owed.”
The Department of Labor recovered thousands of overtime wages for the employees, and one of the employees received nearly $7,000. However, the court order is making the company pay double the amount of wages to the employees. As a result, the employee will receive a total of nearly $14,000.
Employers and workers can call division staff confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
“This was a clear case where punitive damages were appropriate against the employer, which both violated federal law and broke its promises to the department,” Pilotin added.
Sun Chemical Sued for Failure to Correct Racial Discrimination
An employee at Sun Chemical manufacturing facility in Kansas City, Missouri, was subjected to racial harassment by a coworker. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that the victim faced verbal and physical harassment, including being called the N-word, which was known to other employees. Yet, the management failed to take corrective actions against the harasser. To make matters worse, when the employee complained about the harassment, Sun Chemical issued him a written warning for using profanity against the harasser. This is unacceptable. The lawsuit filed against Sun Chemical demands justice for the victim and action from the company to prevent future racial discrimination. We must stand together against racial harassment in the workplace.
Two Adult Children Were Unlawfully Rejected for Jobs Because of Mother’s Prior Sex Discrimination Complaint
A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Wal-Mart Associates, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., L.P. (doing business as Walmart stores in Albuquerque) for retaliation. The lawsuit claimed that Walmart Store #835 on Eubank in Northeast Albuquerque refused to hire Ramona Bradford’s adult son and daughter for entry-level positions because Ms. Bradford had filed a sex discrimination charge against Wal-Mart with the EEOC.
Retaliation against employees because of their opposition to discrimination or participation in protected activity, such as filing a discrimination charge, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC also alleged that Ramona Bradford was a victim of retaliation because her two adult children were being denied employment because she was complaining about discrimination and her charge filing.
The consent decree settling the suit provides for monetary relief for the Bradfords, as well as an injunction prohibiting retaliatory practices, training for managerial employees on retaliation, and posting a notice advising employees of their rights under Title VII.
Retaliation continues to be a high priority for the EEOC, which receives more retaliation charges than any other kind of discrimination charges. The EEOC is pleased that this case could be resolved for the Bradfords and mandates that Wal-Mart train its managers about retaliation.
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes or that impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
Trucking Company Allowed Harassment of Former Employee Because of His Race and Religion, Federal Agency Charges
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Wheeler Trucking for violating federal civil rights laws. The lawsuit alleges that the company subjected an employee at its Lorain County, Ohio location to harassment based on his religion and race. The former employee was also denied a religious accommodation he requested, and faced retaliation when he complained about the harassment. Ultimately, he was separated from employment.
According to the EEOC, Wheeler Trucking personnel frequently and severely harassed the former employee using racial slurs and derogatory terms. The former employee complained multiple times, but the company failed to take meaningful action to address the harassment or prevent future incidents. When the former employee spoke out against the discrimination and harassment, the company’s treatment of him worsened, leading to his separation from employment.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits retaliation, race discrimination, and religious discrimination. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (EEOC v. Wheeler Trucking d/b/a Wheeler Trucking, Inc. and Wheeler Logistics, Inc., Case No. 1:23-cv-01874) after the EEOC’s attempt to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process failed.
EEOC Charges Printing Distribution Company Supervisor Called Employee ‘Ape,’ ‘Congo,’ and Other Slurs After Viewing DNA Results
A printing distribution company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is facing charges of racial and national origin discrimination after a supervisor allegedly harassed an employee with derogatory slurs like “ape” and “Congo” upon learning about her DNA ancestry results. The commercial printing, direct mail, and direct marketing company, Worldwide Printing and Distribution, Inc., doing business as ResourceOne, is accused of violating the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by creating a hostile work environment for the employee and failing to take corrective action despite her repeated complaints.
The incident highlights the importance of protecting employees from discrimination and harassment based on their genetic information, national origin, or race. It is essential for employers to foster a safe and inclusive workplace free from offensive name-calling and slurs that can create a toxic work environment. As more people choose to learn about their ancestry through DNA testing, it is crucial to ensure that this information is not misused to create an unlawful environment at work.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Worldwide Printing and Distribution, Inc., seeking monetary relief for the victim and an order prohibiting similar discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The EEOC emphasizes the need for employers to protect their workers from all forms of harassment and discrimination, including those based on genetic information, national origin, and race.
Dad, Son Refused to Fix Tenant’s Gas Leak After She Reported Sexual Harassment
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Javier Salazar Jr., Javier Salazar Sr., and Ricardo Covarrubias, a maintenance worker, the manager, and the owner, respectively, of rental properties in Bakersfield, California, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Preying on renters who have few housing options is abhorrent and illegal.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that Javier Salazar, Jr., a maintenance worker, sexually harassed a female tenant from December 2018 through March 2019 by repeatedly asking the tenant to engage in sexual acts with him, asking her to be in a relationship with him, describing the sexual acts he wished to engage in with her and persistently commenting on her appearance.
The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable any person in the housing sector who sexually harasses, assaults or retaliates against tenants, from the housing owner to the maintenance worker. A home should be a place of refuge and sanctity, not sexual assault and exploitation, and we will continue to use the Fair Housing Act to hold violators accountable.
According to the complaint, on two occasions, Javier Salazar Jr. touched the tenant’s body without her consent. He secretly took digital photographs of framed print pictures in her home of her and her daughter. The tenant reported Salazar Jr.’s conduct to Salazar Sr., who was both the property manager and Salazar Jr.’s father. After she reported the harassment and threatened to contact a lawyer or the police if it continued, the Salazars refused to fix a leaking gas line in her dwelling, causing her to go without heat for one month and consequently forcing her to move out. The complaint also alleges that the property owner, Covarrubias, is vicariously liable for the Salazars’ conduct because they were his agents when they engaged in sexual harassment and retaliation.
“Sexual harassment in rental housing preys on tenants who are especially vulnerable, including those who rely on their housing provider for critical maintenance services,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable any person in the housing sector who sexually harasses, assaults or retaliates against tenants, from the housing owner to the maintenance worker. A home should be a place of refuge and sanctity, not sexual assault and exploitation, and we will continue to use the Fair Housing Act to hold violators accountable.”
“For four months this tenant refused the repeated sexual advances by the maintenance worker at her rental home, and when she reported the sexual harassment, she faced retaliation,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “The actions of Salazar Jr. and the failure or refusal of Salazar Sr. and Covarrubias to act on the tenant’s behalf caused her harm and distress. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold accountable any landlord who enables or engages in sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.”
“Preying on renters who have few housing options is abhorrent and illegal,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria McCain of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with DOJ to enforce the law and protect tenants.”
The lawsuit arose from a complaint the former tenant filed with HUD. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination, and the matter was referred to the Justice Department. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victim and a court order barring future discrimination.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is part of the Civil Rights Division in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide. The initiative aims to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Justice Department has filed 34 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment by Javier Salazar Jr., or at rental dwellings owned or managed by Ricardo Covarrubias or Javier Salazar Sr., or who have other information that may be relevant to this case should call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or submit a report online.
A skilled nursing facility in California, Riverwalk Post-Acute, has agreed to pay $865,000 to settle a racial harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC alleged that the facility continually allowed black employees to be subjected to racial harassment by residents, co-workers, and a supervisor, including frequent and offensive race-based remarks and slurs since 2018. The EEOC claimed that the facility’s management failed to respond adequately to multiple complaints of harassment, instead telling employees to tolerate the abuse. The settlement also includes injunctive relief aimed at preventing workplace harassment and retaliation, which includes retaining an EEO monitor, reviewing and revising policies and procedures on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, creating a structure for employees to report discrimination and harassment, and providing training on anti-discrimination laws.
The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Joseph Pedaline, owner and manager of residential rental properties in Youngstown, Ohio, for sexually harassing female tenants in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Pedaline allegedly subjected tenants to repeated sexual comments, touched them without their consent, entered their homes without permission, offered to waive rent or perform repairs in exchange for sexual contact, and threatened to evict those who refused his advances. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, a civil penalty, and a court order barring future discrimination. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.