Court Allows Former Safelite Employee and Spouse to Intervene in EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit
February 24, 2011
A federal court in North Carolina has decided to allow former Safelite employee Lee Laraviere-Steele and her husband, Darrell Steele, to intervene in a 2010 sexual harassment suit filed against the company by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC had named Laraviere-Steele in the original suit and alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her sex, and that the company discharged her in retaliation for complaining about the allegedly hostile work environment, according to court documents.
The Steeles had motioned in early-January for the intervention, which will add them as named plaintiffs in the case. With the February 15 order, the Steeles “shall be permitted to file their complaint in this action and shall be permitted thereafter to fully participate in hearings on all proceedings in this action.”
The recent motion for intervention cataloged some of the same allegations made in the original EEOC suit, and also named Gregory Byrd of Safelite as a potential defendant. Laraviere-Steele alleges that Byrd “ask[ed her] the color and type of her undergarments,” “compliment[ed] her on her breasts,” and that he “attempted to kiss [her] inside the office copy room.” The former Safelite employee also claims that she complained to operations manager Tony Roach on March 3, 2008, and on the following day, was told by Byrd that “he was disappointed [she] had spoken with the operations manager regarding his conduct.” Laraviere-Steele goes on to allege that on March 6, Byrd terminated her employment.
Both the Steeles are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Darrell Steele claims he has suffered “loss of consortium” as a result of the alleged actions of the company and Byrd, as “he suffers from several health issues and has been primarily dependent upon Laraviere-Steele’s income, and benefits, for his maintenance and support.”.
Safelite has denied the allegations made in the original EEOC suit and company officials have said that they plan to defend Byrd.
"While we cannot generally comment on legal or HR matters, we are vehemently defending Byrd, who is still employed by Safelite, in this suit," said company spokesperson Melina Metzger shortly after the motion to intervene was filed. "These accusations are not taken lightly; we have a firm commitment to the law and workplace ethics."
A trial in the case is tentatively scheduled for February 2012 in Wilmington, N.C.
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