E.E.O.C. Sues Suffolk Laundry Services For Negligently Handling Allegations Of Hostile Work Environment And Sexual Harassment

On January 30, 2012, the EEOC commenced an action against the Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc. alleging sexual harassment and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. Seven women intervened under Rule 24 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure adding state law claims pursuant to the New York State Human Rights Law alleging, in addition to sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation claims against the President of the company, the Corporate Secretary and their son who also works for Suffolk Laundry. Sullivan Laundry is a commercial laundry business that provides laundry services for hospitals, nursing homes, and restaurants.

Everything started when the seven women filed charges of gender discrimination against Suffolk Laundry with EEOC alleging “misconduct” by Suffolk Laundry’s mechanic who EEOC contends “had the power to influence the firing of employees.” One of the female employees alleged that the mechanic discriminated against her because of her gender, made sexual comments and touched her in unwanted ways. For fear of losing hours at the job she was afraid of complaining about the mechanic’s conducts. He would repeatedly touch her despite her several requests that he stop and continuously asked her for kisses. Further, the employee alleges that prior to filling the EEOC charge she had easy duties, such as feeding napkins and tablecloths into the laundry machine. However, after the filling with EEOC, not only was she subjected to harder working conditions but also she had her work hours reduced. The other female employees had similar allegations.

The President of Suffolk Laundry conducted an investigation that the EEOC called a “sham,” and confronted the female employees, stating that if they did not like working at Suffolk Laundry to find another job.

The Defendants moved for summary judgment to dismiss the action and on October 1, 2014, the District Court for the Eastern District denied the motion stating that there was sufficient evidence on the record to permit a reasonable jury to find severe or pervasive conduct and to find Suffolk Laundry liable for the mechanic’s conduct. The court condemned the fact that Defendants had no written or oral policies regarding sexual harassment, no adequate procedure in place for employees to report sexual harassment, and did not properly respond to the female employees’ allegations of illegal conduct on behalf of their mechanic.

If you believe your rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or under New York State and City Human Rights laws have been violated, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.