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New York Discrimination and Retaliation Update: Make Sure Your Employees Don’t Retaliate Against Complaints of Religious Discrimination

above-the-bar-logo.jpgThe EEOC recently announced a lawsuit it filed a lawsuit against Grand Central Partnership, Inc. (“GCP”) for violating a prior consent decree by committing new acts of discrimination. The new charges allege that GCP fired a black Rastafarian security officer in retaliation for his complaining of discrimination and threats of violence. The earlier consent decree was entered into in 2009 and promised to provide Rastafarian security officers accommodation for their religious practices.

GCP is a non-profit developer in New York City that manages the Grand Central Business Improvement District, which is one of the largest business improvement districts in the world.

In 2009, the EEOC and GCP settled a lawsuit over how GCP treated its Rastafarian and Caribbean security officers. The parties agreed in a consent decree that GCP would accommodate the Rastafarian security officer’s religious practices and not retaliate against them for participating in the lawsuit. GCP is still subject to court supervision as part of that settlement.

More recently, in 2010, and as part of the new lawsuit, a non-Caribbean security officer threatened to shoot and kill a group of Rastafarian security officers. After a white security supervisor made light of the situation, a Rastafarian security officer objected to his conduct and called him a racist for referring to a group of Rastafarians with the “N” word. After he complained and called the EEOC, he was fired by the GCP three months later.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It also makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual for engaging in “protected activity” such as filing a discrimination charge, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices. In this case, the Rastafarian officer reported the threats and complained to the EEOC, which is protected activity. Thereafter, he was fired for having complained.

The Regional Attorney of the EEOC’s New York District Office, Elizabeth Grossman, stated that the “EEOC is particularly concerned when it obtains a consent decree to stop violations of the law and the employer turns around and ignores the settlement by reverting to the illegal behavior.” Michael Ranis, a trial attorney at the same office added that “Retaliation against an employee who objects to threats of violence against his co-religionists and then objects to racism will not be tolerated. EEOC’s lawsuit should make it clear that an employee may not blame the victim when it loses control of its managers and employees.”

It is a shame that GCP personnel continued to engage in discriminatory and retaliatory conduct even after being sued by the EEOC and agreeing to change its conduct. Clearly these employees needed more than a consent decree to learn how not to engage in discriminatory behavior. Unfortunately, such conduct is prevalent and becomes a liability costing thousands for many businesses. Our experienced Discrimination Attorneys have conducted many training sessions and seminars on discrimination at the workplace which have made a real difference in how employees conduct themselves to prevent litigation. Call our Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 to help provide training and seminars to prevent potential litigation from financially destroying your business.


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