Legal Newsline

Friday, December 13, 2019

Goodwill chapter, facing EEOC lawsuit, says it acted properly after harassment allegations

By Dee Thompson | Jan 5, 2017

Discrimination 08

OAKLAND, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – Goodwill Industries is the defendant in a lawsuit filed Dec. 13 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging a pattern of sexual harassment and disability discrimination at its facilities in the East Bay Area of Northern California. The suit also claims managers who tried to help victims faced retaliation.

Janitorial company Calidad is also a named defendant in a lawsuit filed almost five years after the most recent alleged occurrence.

Goodwill denies the allegations. It claims it investigated the allegations before suit was filed but could find no substantiation of the allegations.

"The alleged acts of harassment last occurred in early 2012, but the EEOC, after a prolonged and unnecessary delay, is now bringing this lawsuit nearly five years later," Breanna Chan, director of marketing for Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay, told Legal Newsline.

“When the complaints were brought to our attention internally, we promptly investigated the claims. During the course of the investigation, the alleged perpetrator was assigned to another site (where no similar problems or concerns were ever reported).

The harassment allegedly occurred between 2009 and 2012. The alleged harasser was a night supervisor at the Oakland Federal Building. The women were employed by Goodwill and Calidad under a program to help individuals with disabilities, the EEOC claims.

“In addition to inappropriate touching, leering, propositions and intrusive questions about these women's sex lives, the supervisor groped his genitals in front of female janitors and others so often that federal building employees nicknamed him 'Mr. Bojangles,'" according to the EEOC in a press release dated Dec. 13, 2016.

"Despite repeated reports, Goodwill/Calidad failed to take any effective action to protect these vulnerable workers. EEOC's investigation also revealed that the same supervisor falsified mandated time studies, denying the workers with disabilities pay increases based on their actual performance.

"EEOC also charges that two managers were unfairly criticized and disciplined in retaliation for supporting the women's sexual harassment claims, and one manager was compelled to resign.”

The lawsuit also states that the supervisors who assisted the women in filing their EEOC claims against Goodwill and Calidad later faced retaliation. The complaint states that there was disability bias under the Americans with Disabilities Act and that the defendants allegedly violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"When the EEOC became involved, we cooperated with the EEOC fully and completely, including making our managers and supervisors available for interviews. We attempted to resolve this matter, for the benefit of all concerned, with the EEOC, and will continue to do so," Chan said.

“While the filing of a lawsuit is unfortunate, we are confident that the litigation process will support our position that we took appropriate actions to prevent harassment and discrimination, and that when an alleged problem or concern was brought to our attention, we responded promptly and appropriately.”

Chan states that the EEOC didn’t cooperate with Goodwill’s attempts to resolve the matter before suit was filed.

“We have actively been seeking additional information about the facts of the allegations (of harassment) since 2014, but the EEOC has not provided any new information," Chan said.

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission