- Goodwill Industries of the East Bay Area and its affiliate, Calidad Industries Inc., will pay $850,000 to settle claims that they failed to stop sexual harassment and retaliated against the managers who reported it, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- The EEOC, which sued on behalf of the employees, alleged that six female night-shift janitors experienced routine sexual harassment by their direct supervisor. Among the claimants were young women with developmental disabilities, who were new to the workforce and employed by Goodwill/Calidad’s janitorial operations under a federal government contract. EEOC also says that the companies disciplined two managers in retaliation for supporting the women’s sexual harassment claims.
- In addition to the monetary settment, Goodwill and Calidad will revise their EEO policies and complaint and investigation procedures; institute supervisor accountability policies; conduct training; and hire a consultant to monitor responses to future complaints.
While EEOC's acting chair recently noted at an industry conference that the commission hadn't seen an uptick in sex discrimination claims in light of the #MeToo movement, some experts say it's likely on the way. A management-side attorney told attendees at that same conference that employers are seeing an influx in demand letters, with employees perhaps emboldened by the movement to speak up.
Employers are responding by improving their sexual harassment training; according to one report, vendors say demand for the training has soared since the movement took hold. They're also re-evaluating policies and procedures which, while important, also must be accompanied by a culture shift and real action, experts say. And those are efforts which HR may need to lead.
Finally, as the Goodwill case illustrates, employers that partner with other companies may want to take steps to ensure their partners are complying with all applicable laws. From discrimination laws to those mandating wage and hour compliance, many allow for joint liability, and the federal government, at least in recent years, hasn't shied away from holding all parties accountable.