Safelite Charged with Sexual Harassment, Retaliation, by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
August 9, 2010

The EEOC alleges that a human resources assistant was sexually harassed at Safelite's Enfield, N.C., facility from March 2007 to March 2008 (shown here).

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a suit against Safelite Glass on Friday charging the company with subjecting a female employee 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.

The EEOC alleges that Lee 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. The human resources manager is not named in the suit.

"The sexual harassment was severe or pervasive in that it involved both sexual comments and touching," reads the EEOC complaint. "The complained-of conduct occurred almost every time the HR manager worked in the same facility as Laraviere-Steele, the frequency of which varied but was at least three days per week every other week."

The EEOC goes on to allege that when the HR manager was out of town, he would "call Laraviere-Steele by phone and make sexual comments."

Comments alleged to have been made include items such as telling Laraviere-Steele "that she is pretty and sexy, asking her the color of her panties and commenting that she has nice breasts," according to a statement from EEOC.

The HR manager, who was not named in the suit, also is alleged to have asked Laraviere-Steele to meet away from the facility to discuss some business and to allegedly have physically harassed her during the meeting.

"While at the remote location, the HR manager rubbed Laraviere-Steele's shoulders, tried to kiss her and tried to pull her down onto his lap," reads the suit. "Laraviere-Steele told the HR manager to stop, and she immediately left the room where they were meeting."

On March 3, 2008, the EEOC says Laraviere-Steele complained to the facility's operations manager "and stated that the conduct made her uncomfortable." The next day, while home sick, Laraviere-Steele says she received a call from the HR manager, who told her she should not have complained about his conduct, according to court documents. EEOC alleges that on March 6, when she returned to work, the HR manager told her she was discharged from her job.

"Thus, [Safelite] failed to act reasonably to stop the harassment and retaliated against Laraviere-Steele by discharging her because of her complaint," writes the EEOC in the suit.

The EEOC charges Safelite with depriving Laraviere-Steele of equal employment opportunities because of her sex and also alleges that the practices described in the suit were intentional and "were done with malice or with reckless indifference to [Laraviere-Steel's] federally protected rights."

The EEOC is seeking backpay for Laraviere-Steele as well as compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief, and says it filed the suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with Safelite. The Commission is requesting a jury trial.

"Once an employee complains about harassment in the workplace, the employer is required under federal law to act reasonably to prevent further abuse," says Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC's Charlotte District. "This case is especially egregious because the alleged harasser is the human resources manager, the person who in many companies is responsible for ensuring that employees are not harassed. The EEOC will aggressively prosecute cases where the employer ignores known harassment or retaliates against the victim for complaining."

Safelite spokesperson Jenny Cain issued the following statement to glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR magazine regarding the case.

"We take matters like this seriously," she says. "However, we are unable to comment on pending litigation."

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