Employer Created Hostile Work Environment By Discriminating Against Customers Based on Their Perceived Ethnicity,Federal Agency Charges
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (STL.News) San Leandro-based solar and home energy company Fidelity Home Energy, Inc., and its successor NorCal Home Systems, Inc., will pay $350,000 to a former employee and hire a consultant to resolve a national origin discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, within her first week as a telemarketing supervisor, the former employee learned that all potential customers perceived to be Middle Eastern or Indian were to be rejected for sales appointments for home energy systems. EEOC charged that the former employee, who is of Afghan descent, observed supervisors flagging these individuals’ records in an internal database and placing them on the “do not call” list. The employee was forced to turn away any such potential customers almost daily and to direct her subordinates to do the same.
Ultimately, as EEOC charged, the distress of having to discriminate against would-be customers, particularly those of her own national origin, compelled the employee to quit after only a few weeks. In her resignation, she explained, “It makes me sick to know that we refuse to service a particular ethnicity of people. We literally go out of our way to single them out.”
The alleged conduct created a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on national origin. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California [Case No. 3:19-cv-01231] after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The lawsuit was litigated by EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi and Trial Attorney James H. Baker.
Under the three-year consent decree, Fidelity and NorCal will provide $350,000 in damages to the employee and hire an EEO consultant to help revise NorCal’s EEO policies and procedures, investigate employee complaints of discrimination, and ensure that managers, supervisors and employees are trained on their EEO rights and obligations. NorCal must also revise its databases to remove any ability to screen entries by race, ethnicity or national origin, and must post a notice to employees about the consent decree.
“Combatting all forms of workplace harassment remains a top priority of the EEOC’s 2017-2021 Strategic Enforcement Plan. This past year, over 7,000 charges alleging national origin-based harassment were filed with the agency,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director William Tamayo. “We commend NorCal for working to ensure that discriminatory practices do not continue.”
Trial Attorney James H. Baker stated, “The former employee was faced with an unacceptable choice: continue to reject customers based on national origin or quit her job. He added, “Discriminatory conduct directed at third-parties, including co-workers or customers, can result in a hostile work environment claim for protected employees under Title VII.”
Fidelity Home Energy, Inc. was a family-owned and operated business providing homeowners with energy-efficient products and in-home installation services. Last year, Fidelity’s CEO dissolved Fidelity, and continued the services it provided as NorCal Home Systems, Inc