Former Safelite Employee and Spouse File Motion to Intervene in EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit; Tentative Trial Date Scheduled for February 2012
January 19, 2011

Former Safelite employee Lee Laraviere-Steele, who was named in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) sexual harassment complaint against Safelite, and her husband, Darrell Steele, have filed a motion to intervene in the suit. The original complaint was filed by the EEOC last August. In the complaint, the EEOC charged Safelite with subjecting Laraviere-Steele to a hostile work environment because of her sex and discharging her in retaliation for complaining about the sexually hostile work environment, according to court documents.

In the motion to intervene, which, if accepted, would add Laraviere-Steele and Steele as named plaintiffs in the case, the Steeles name Gregory Byrd of Safelite also as a potential defendant. Information provided to AGRR magazine during a June 2009 tour of the company's Enfield, N.C., facility listed Byrd as regional associate services manager at the location as of that time.

The Steeles are seeking a jury trial in the case and allege that “Safelite and Byrd discriminated against Laraviere-Steele by subjecting her to a sexually hostile work environment because of her sex, and by discharging Laraviere-Steele in retaliation for complaining about her sexually hostile work environment ...,” according to the motion, filed on January 12.

The recent motion catalogs many of the same claims made in the original EEOC suit. Laraviere-Steele is alleging 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.”

Laraviere-Steele alleges 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.” She goes on to claim that on March 6, Byrd terminated her employment.

“Throughout these incidents, Byrd was acting within the scope of his employment, within the scope of his authority, and Byrd’s actions were authorized or ratified by the conduct of Safelite; therefore, Safelite is vicariously liable for Byrd’s actions in accordance with the doctrine of respondeat superior,” write Laraviere-Steele and Steele.

Both the Steeles are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Among the details of the complaint, 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,” according to the text of the motion.

The Steeles are represented by the law firm of Batts, Batts & Bell LLP in Rocky Mount, N.C.

Safelite has denied the allegations made in the original EEOC suit. At press time, the court had not yet ruled on the motion to intervene.

A scheduling order also has been issued in the case, setting a tentative trial date of February 2012 in Wilmington, N.C.

Safelite issued the following statement to™/AGRR magazine regarding the latest on the case.

"While we cannot generally comment on legal or HR matters, we are vehemently defending Byrd, who is still employed by Safelite, in this suit," says company spokesperson Melina Metzger. "These accusations are not taken lightly; we have a firm commitment to the law and workplace ethics."

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
Subscribe to AGRR Magazine.