Safelite to Pay $50,000 to Settle Sexual Harassment Case
December 6, 2012

by Casey Neeley, cneeley@glass.com

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a Consent Decree yesterday effectively closing the EEOC and Lee Lavierre-Steele v. Safelite Glass Corp. sexual harassment case filed more than two years ago. The court documents announce the settlement agreement reached between the EEOC and Safelite. In the decree, Safelite agrees to pay Lavierre-Steele $50,000 in settlement claims.

According to a release issued by the EEOC, "In addition to paying Lee Laraviere-Steele monetary damages, the consent decree settling the suit requires Safelite to provide annual training on sex discrimination and retaliation, post a notice concerning employees' rights under Title VII, and provide periodic reports to the EEOC concerning how the company responded to complaints that it received, if any, concerning inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace. Safelite must also provide periodic reports to the EEOC concerning how it responded to any complaints it received about any other type of discrimination covered by Title VII."

"Once an employee complains about sexual harassment by a supervisor in the workplace, the employer is required under federal law to take appropriate action to stop it," says Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC's Charlotte District. "Also, employers must ensure that employees are protected from retaliation after complaints are made."

"As the case has settled, we want our associates to know that we take accusations of sexual harassment very seriously," says Safelite spokesperson Melina Metzger. "We have a firm commitment to the law and workplace ethics and encourage all employees to use our alternative third-party ethics hotline to report any concerns."

A final scheduled pretrial conference originally had been scheduled for December 7, 2012 at 2 p.m. The parties first filed a joint motion for settlement conference in September.

In the suit filed August 6, 2010, the EEOC alleges that Laraviere-Steele, who worked as a human resources assistant in the company's Enfield, N.C., manufacturing and distribution facility, was subjected to sexual harassment from March 2007 until March 2008 by the facility's male human resources (HR) manager. In addition, Laraviere-Steele and her husband, Darrell, had intervened in the case as plaintiffs and had filed a complaint that also listed Laraviere-Steele's former supervisor, Gregory Byrd, as a defendant.

Safelite officials objected to the suit after filing and have worked to close the matter. Safelite previously claimed that the case did not qualify under the applicable statute of limitations and the doctrines of waiver, estoppel, unclean hands, preemption and laches. In addition, the company claims that both EEOC and Laraviere-Steele "failed to exhaust their administrative remedies."

Earlier this year the EEOC opposed a motion for summary judgment filed by Safelite. The court denied that motion, but dismissed Laraviere-Steele's "claim for wrongful discharge against defendant Byrd and her claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against both defendants."

"We are pleased that all claims against Byrd were dismissed by the judge earlier this year," Metzger says.

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