Cal-Maine Foods to pay $55K to settle discrimination, retaliation suit

Egg company allegedly fired employee for reporting same-sex verbal abuse, sexual touching

Cal-Maine Foods, a company that produces, processes and sells shell eggs, will pay $55,000 and furnish other relief to settle a racial and sexual discrimination and retaliation suit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced Wednesday.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, an African-American male employee was subjected to racial and sexual harassment and retaliated against because he reported the harassment to Cal-Maine, a minority member of a limited liability company operating a facility in Waelder, Texas, now closed.

The EEOC said the harassment included a male supervisor frequently using derogatory names when addressing the employee and inappropriate sexual touching.

Management from Cal-Maine knew of the discriminatory conduct but failed to take measures to prevent and correct the harassment. Officials said the employee was fired by the harasser after filing a charge with the EEOC.

?Racial and sexual harassment are forms of discrimination that violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC said Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace.

"Employers who ignore reports of harassment show a tremendous disregard both for the law and for the employees whom the law seeks to protect," said EEOC San Antonio Field Office Supervisory Trial Attorney Judith G. Taylor. "When they fail to take appropriate steps to stop the harassment and then punish the victim for reporting the harassment, employers compound their own unlawful conduct. The EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of those who suffer this kind of abuse."

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, officials said.

The two-year consent decree resolving this case, approved by a U.S. district judge, requires Cal-Maine to implement an anti-discrimination policy that prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of race, sex and/or retaliation in violation of Title VII; post a notice regarding its commitment to protect employees from harassment; provide training to all of its new employees; and pay $55,000 to the former employee in this case, officials said.

"Every employee has the right to a workplace free from racial and sexual harassment, including from a harasser of the same sex. Cal-Maine did the right thing as a minority partner taking full responsibility," said ?trial attorney Patrick M. Connor, of the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office.