Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) and ManpowerGroup US Inc. (Manpower) have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit charging the companies with sexual harassment and retaliation against a worker at a JCI plant in Norman, Oklahoma.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said JCI and Manpower have agreed to pay $40,000 and hire outside consultants to review their sexual harassment policies and procedures to resolve a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the federal agency.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Victoria Stafford was jointly employed by Manpower, a temporary staffing agency, and JCI, an international manufacturer of heating and air systems. Stafford worked at JCI’s Norman facility.
The EEOC said that Stafford told her Manpower onsite supervisor that a JCI employee was sexually harassing her. Stafford said the harasser repeatedly told her about his sexual exploits, that he wanted to have sex with her daughter, made other belittling comments about women, and refused to perform work tasks he deemed to be “women’s work.”
The EEOC charged that the Manpower supervisor did nothing to resolve her complaint and that Stafford was not interviewed about her sexual harassment allegations. After a confrontation between Stafford, the harasser, and another male employee who came to Stafford’s defense, all three were suspended.
JCI fired Stafford a week later. Although Manpower eventually placed Stafford in other temporary assignments, the EEOC claimed Stafford suffered significant wage loss and emotional distress from her mistreatment and firing.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee based on his or her sex and from retaliating against an employee who complains of sexual harassment. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Johnson Controls, Inc. and ManpowerGroup US, Inc. No. 19-cv-904-F), in September 2019 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Judge Stephen P. Friot has approved the two-year consent decree awarding $40,000 in monetary damages to Stafford. In addition, the decree requires JCI and Manpower to engage outside consultants to review their discrimination and harassment policies, conduct annual training on sexual harassment, and train appropriate personnel on how to investigate complaints of sexual harassment.
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