The EEOC recently settled a sex discrimination suit against an Ohio auto dealer for $2.3 million, charging that the dealership refused to hire even the most highly-qualified women.
Thirty-nine qualified female auto sales people were denied jobs at 11 dealerships owned by Jeff Wyler, including Jeff Wyler Eastgate, Inc. of Cincinnati. The suit alleged that the dealerships refused to hire any women for auto sales positions, acting as an integrated unit.
A consent decree under the settlement requires the auto dealerships to make job offers to the class members. In addition, the company will institute an equal employment opportunity program for which managers will be accountable. It will also introduce manager training in the anti-discrimination requirements under the law.
It is disturbing that women still face the barriers and stereotypes they faced 40 years ago when Title VII was enacted,” according to EEOC Regional Attorney Jacqueline McNair. “We are pleased that the parties in this case reached an amicable resolution with important training and policy change provisions.”
This suit was unusual because the employer refused to hire women, but apparently complied with the other portions of anti-discrimination laws.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion or sex. Under this law, employers may not discriminate in hiring, training, promotions, discipline, benefits, compensation, or termination against any of the protected groups.
Despite the fact that this law is more than 43 years old, many companies still discriminate against women. Often, such discrimination is paired with discrimination based on race, color or nationality. For example, Woodward Governor in Illinois recently paid $5 million to settle two class action suits alleging discrimination at its plants in Rockford and Rockton. The company is based in Fort Collins, Colorado.
According to promotional material issued by the company, Woodward Governor is “the world’s largest independent designer, manufacturer, and service provider of energy control solutions for aircraft engines, industrial engines and turbines, power generation, and process automation equipment.” Woodward has approximately 1,100 employees at the Rockford and Rockton plants.
The Illinois plants are just two of 25 facilities worldwide including Australia, Brazil, China, Indian, Japan, Korea, and Poland. The company also has 10 plants in the U.S.
The company recently settled a suit that the Woodward Governor Company discriminated in pay, promotions and training against African-American, Hispanic and Asian employees, as well as women. These actions violate Title VII, as well as the Equal Pay Act, which requires that women be paid the same amount as men for work that is substantially the same.
In filing the consent decree, Judge Philip Reinhard of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois established a $2.4 million settlement for the minority employees. The award covers all minority employees who worked at the company’s Rockford or Rockton plants since May 1999. The judge established a separate $2.6 million fund to be shared by female employees who worked at Woodward Governor’s Illinois plants since June 2002.
The decree also authorizes the appointment of Nancy B. Kreiter to oversee Woodward’s implementation and compliance with the decree. Kreiter, of Chicago, has provided similar decrees with other EEOC lawsuits on sex discrimination against Mitsubishi Motors and the Dial Corporation. Kreiter will provide annual reports assessing Woodward’s compliance with the decree.
Woodward must implement a procedure for investigating complaints of discrimination under the agreement. In addition, the company must train all employees regarding the discrimination laws and the complaint procedure. It will report the results twice annually to Kreiter, the EEOC and the attorney representing the plaintiffs. These reviews must include information on promotion decisions, compensation and job training for employees.
These severe restrictions have led some pundits to the conclusion that Woodward Governor’s actions were especially severe.
All of the companies mentioned in this article deny any wrongdoing.
While there is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sex, Ohio sexual discrimination in the workplace is based on the Ohio Revised Code of Title XLI.
Under this code, employers are those who have four or more employees and it includes the State of Ohio as well anyone working in the direct or indirect interest of the employer. This differs from the federal law because Title VII applies only to those who have fifteen or more employees. Employees are defined by the state of Ohio as anyone employed by an employer except for those who are employed in domestic service.
Basically, the laws states that employers cannot make decisions on the matter of hiring, firing, promoting or determining job conditions, terms and compensation of the basis of an individual’s sex.
If your rights have been violated, you can file a complete with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission as long as you do so within six months of the alleged discriminatory act. You can contact your regional office either by phone or in person.
After you submit your complaint, a Civil Rights Field Representative will take on your case, investigate the facts and write up a report along with a recommendation. The report and recommendation will be submitted to the Regional Director for approval. If the Director finds reasonable cause to believe that your rights have indeed been violated, you and your employer will enter a mandatory conciliation process. If these negotiations fail, your case will go to public hearing.
If you choose to go through the federal courts, you must request a “Right to Sue” letter from the EEOC first. In Ohio, you can choose to go directly through the state courts without contacting the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. You’ll want to consult a lawyer to find out which option is best for your case.
It’s up to both employers and employees to stay informed of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to sexual discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, all employers should keep a current Ohio Complete Labor Law poster available in the workplace.