Home Electronics Retailer Settles Harassment Claims for $630K

August 5, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that an Oregon home electronics retailer, Video Only, has agreed to pay $630,000 to settle two discrimination lawsuits.

Michael Gonzales, a Hispanic, and Jayson Lewis, an African American, will receive $500,000 to settle charges that they faced repeated slurs and jokes about their race, national origin, and religion, according to the announcement. The EEOC also said the company retaliated against Gonzales and Lewis after they reported the harass­ment by, among other things, hiring a private investigator to gather information in an effort to discredit their harassment claims and confronting co-workers who supported the complain­ants by telling them they were hurting the company and trying to get them to quit.

The EEOC and the employees filed pretrial papers seeking a ruling against the company and, in June, a federal district court judge ruled that Video Only had unlawfully retaliated against Lewis and Gonzales. The court also found that as a matter of law that Video Only failed to exercise reasonable care to promptly correct the harassment, the announcement said.

According to the EEOC, the abuse included use of the “N – word” by management; the telling of racially offensive “jokes;” use of the epithet “beaner;” and a doll with its hair and face painted black that was hog-tied and hung by a nail in a break room.

The remaining $130,000 of the settlement resolved a related suit to which the EEOC was not a party.

Video Only also agreed to implement anti-discrimin­ation policies and procedures in its work force, provide anti-discrimination training to all management and non-management employees in Oregon and at its headquarters store in Seattle-Southcenter, and provide periodic reports to the EEOC on its compliance with the terms of the consent decree.