The U.S. EEOC recently settled a lawsuit for $125,000 which alleged national origin harassment against Simon Property Group, Inc. (“Simon”) at its Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The suit charged with allowing Hispanic janitors who worked for the company to be verbally attacked on a daily basis because of their national origin.
Simon is the nation’s largest real estate company which owns and manages shopping malls throughout the country. It is an S&P 500 company that has either ownership or property interest in 392 properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia and generates annual retail sales of over $60 billion in the U.S.
The lawsuit charged that the housekeeping shift leader, who was white, harassed a group of Hispanic janitors beginning in 2005 which then continued on daily basis. He subjected them to verbal abuse and slurs. Although a dozen Hispanic janitors complained with a written petition the same year the harassment began, they felt nothing was being done to stop the discriminatory behavior. The harassment continued for another year until the supervisor was terminated, which was for different reasons.
The EEOC charged that the alleged conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The parties settled with a two year consent decree which provides monetary relief for least five of the victims who were harassed. The decree also calls for Simon to retain a consultant to monitor and track complaints in Nevada, provide anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for staff, and report its compliance efforts to the EEOC.
Anna Y. Park, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, stated that “National origin discrimination issues are on the rise and we are committed to vigorously enforcing federal laws to ensure workplaces free of harassment and discrimination.” The acting director at the EEOC’s Las Vegas Local Office stated that “We encourage workers to report harassment as they did here in this case” and “equally encourage employers to take proactive steps to stop harassment and to take swift action when it does occur.”
It is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their national origin with respect to any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, promotion, benefits, or terms or conditions. This means that an employer cannot discriminate against a worker because of their birthplace, ancestry, culture, and linguistic characteristic related to a specific ethnic group, or accent. For example, you cannot refuse to promote a competent, qualified worker just because his ancestors are from Iraq or because a worker has an Indian accent which does not materially interfere with job performance. Title VII also prohibits conduct that creates a hostile environment such as using ethnic slurs.
It is outrageous that the workers were subjected to national origin harassment for two years and that even after they complained, nothing was done. Whether you are a small company employing 15 or more employees or as big as Simon Properties, it is imperative to promptly investigate any complaints of national origin discrimination. If your business does not have an employment discrimination policy, call our Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645. Our attorneys have held many anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training seminars and set up policy and procedures to effectively handle any complaints of discrimination.
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