Jury Awards over $1.5M in EEOC Retaliation Case

March 7, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A U.S. District Court jury brought in a verdict of over $1.5 million for sexual harassment and retaliation in the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) lawsuit against Mid-American Specialties.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil Action No. 2:09-cv-02203-JMP, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, charged the promotional products and office supply company with subjecting three former female employees in Memphis to sexual harassment, and retaliating against two of the women for reporting the harassment. The actual jury award included more than $400,000 in compensatory damages and back pay to three women and $1.1 million in punitive damages. 

According to an EEOC news release, the jury found that two male managers at Mid-American subjected female subordinates to severe, unwelcome sexual harassment, including forced inappropriate touching and demands for women to participate in a “kissing” or “smooching” club in order to receive the sales leads and accounts necessary for them to earn commissions. 

The announcement said trial evidence further showed that as a result of their rejection of managers’ sexual advances and complaints about the harassment, Mid-American fired two of the women.    

During the two years that the harassment took place, Mid-American had no sexual harassment policy, no training on sexual harassment, and no reporting procedures.  Company officials testified that they did not think that such policies and procedures were necessary, so the complaints of the women fell on deaf ears.   

“The jury award further shows that employers without sexual harassment policies and procedures for handling complaints promptly and effectively are taking major risks,” said Faye A. Williams, EEOC regional attorney in Memphis, in the news release.