Cynthia Williams, an African American woman, worked for a company called Paramount Janitorial Services. Paramount Janitorial Services is a Virginia based “full-service” janitorial company. Williams complained to the owner of the company stating that her supervisor made racial slurs and threats, including calling her the “N” word and threatening to beat her with his “n***** stick.”
At first blush, it appears that Ms. Williams followed the steps to protect herself from further harassment. In the response, the owner could have taken prompt remedial action by counseling the supervisor, separating Ms. Williams from her supervisor, and/or firing the supervisor. At this stage, the actions of the owner are unknown. If Ms. Williams’ version of the events is true, Paramount Janitorial Services failed to take prompt remedial action. Two days after complaining to the owner, the supervisor fired Ms. Williams.
After efforts to settle the matter failed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a retaliation lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Williams. To prevail, Ms. Williams must show that she engaged in activity protected by discrimination law, that she suffered an adverse employment action, and that the adverse action was causally related to the protected activity. The EEOC is seeking to recover back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in this case.
Unfortunately, cases like these occur more often than we are ready to admit. The actions that the owner should have taken to avoid suit are spelled out above. If you have questions about retaliation or other employment law issues, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.