Eight former employees of a commercial laundry in Suffolk County will split a $582,000 settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal officials announced Tuesday.
The eight women, immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America, were harassed by their supervisor at Suffolk Laundry Services Inc. in Southampton, who, the 2012 complaint says, “regularly touched them on their buttocks, hips, and backs, forcibly kissed them and made comments about their appearance and body parts.” The harassment went on for “several years,” according to the complaint, which also said that when the women complained they were either terminated or their work hours were reduced or altered.
“This resolution represents yet another example of the EEOC’s efforts to end discriminatory workplace practices against vulnerable workers who often live in the shadows of the economy,” EEOC general counsel P. David Lopez said in a statement. “We are grateful to these women for coming forward and to our partners who helped us resolve this case.”
As part of the settlement, officials said the laundry service agreed to a four-year consent decree barring discrimination, instituting new procedures and mandating sexual harassment training “to ensure that the kind of abuse that led to this lawsuit does not happen in the future.” The decree provides that, in addition to the settlement payment, the laundry will train managers and staff on how to identify and prevent sexual harassment and retaliation, the EEOC said in its statement Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed in January 2012 on behalf of the unnamed victims, who, among other charges, alleged they were subjected to unwanted touching and comments as “conditions” for requests for time off and that the manager in question even demanded the women “sit on his lap or kiss him.”
The conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the EEOC, which filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The EEOC litigated the case in partnership with the nonprofit LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
The laundry provides linens to a wide range of Long Island establishments, including hospitals and restaurants.