Hat World to Pay $33,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit

‘Lids’ Retailer Fired Store Manager Who Reported Sexual Harassment and Filed a Charge with the EEOC, Federal Agency Charged

NORFOLK, VA (STL.News) Hat World, Inc., an Indianapolis-based retailer of sports hats and fan gear, will pay $33,000 and provide other relief to settle a retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.  The EEOC had charged that Hat World violated federal law when it fired a “Lids” store manager for complaining about sexual harassment and filing an EEOC charge.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, over the course of a year and a half, Jalesa Staton, store manager of the Greenbrier Square “Lids” location, made written complaints to Hat World’s corporate human resources that she was being sexually harassed by her district manager.  On May 16, 2017, Staton filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. Hat World discharged Staton shortly after in retaliation, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who engage in activity protected under Title VII, including complaining about alleged discrimination or filing EEOC charges.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division (EEOC v. Hat World, Inc. d/b/a Lids, et al., Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-00314-RBS-LRL) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Staton, the two-year consent decree settling the lawsuit requires Hat World to adopt a written anti-discrimination policy that includes a procedure for the investigation of employee complaints by well-trained neutral individuals.  Hat World must also conduct annual training for Virginia employees and their supervisors on Title VII and its prohibition against retaliation and on the company’s anti-discrimination policy.  The decree also requires Hat World to post a notice concerning the lawsuit and to provide the EEOC with periodic reports.

“Employers must remember that retaliation against people who complain about illegal employ­ment discrimination is itself against the law,” said Kara Haden, acting regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.  “Effective reporting procedures and protection against retaliation are key to maintaining a workplace free of unlawful discrimination.”