Mountaire Farms Pays $48,000 to Settle Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Retaliation Lawsuit
Poultry Processing Company Fired Employee for Complaining About National Origin Discrimination, Federal Agency Charged
Mountaire Farms, Inc., doing business as Mountaire Farms of North Carolina Corp., will pay $48,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a lawsuit for retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. Mountaire Farms is a Delaware-based agricultural food processing company that operates a poultry processing facility in Lumber Bridge, N.C.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Frantz Morette began working as a translator for a group of Haitian workers at Mountaire Farms' Lumber Bridge facility in December 2010. The EEOC's complaint alleged that Morette complained repeatedly to his supervisors and the human resources department that the Haitian workers were being treated poorly by Mountaire Farms' supervisors as compared to their non-Haitian coworkers. Morette told company management that supervisors often refused to allow the Haitian workers to take bathroom breaks while allowing non-Haitian workers to do so and refused to provide the Haitian workers with the training necessary for the higher-paying jobs at the facility. Morette also informed company management that the Haitian workers were often harassed by their non-Haitian supervisors and co-workers by having chickens and chicken parts thrown at them.
The EEOC's suit further alleged that sometime around Sept. 1, 2011, Morette notified one of the company's managers that a supervisor was refusing to allow a Haitian worker to take a restroom break while allowing other non-Haitian workers to do so. A few days later, Morette was fired, the EEOC said, in retaliation for his complaints.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees and applicants from retaliation for making complaints about discrimination. The EEOC filed suit on Aug. 28, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division (EEOC v. Mountaire Farms, Inc. d/b/a Mountaire Farms of North Carolina Corp., Civil Action No. 7:13-CV-00182) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Mountaire Farms to revise its existing anti-discrimination policy to include procedures for reporting discrimination; give assurance that the company will protect the confidentiality of discrimination complaints to the extent possible; give further assurance that Mountaire Farms will not retaliate or take action against a person who makes a complaint about discrimination; and institute a procedure for investigating such complaints. Mountaire Farms will also post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy at all of its facilities and train its employees on anti-discrimination laws annually.
"It is of great concern to the EEOC when an employer fires an employee simply because he complained about unlawful conduct," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "The anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII are essential to the attainment of a workplace free of discrimination."
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 agency's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.