American Queen Steamboat Sued by EEOC for Firing Employee Who Opposed Sexual Harassment
Cruise Director Fired for Supporting Coworker's Harassment Claim, Federal Agency Charges
American Queen Steamboat Company, a cruise company headquartered in Memphis, unlawfully fired an employee after he supported his coworker's complaint about sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a recently filed lawsuit.
The EEOC's lawsuit alleges that in December 2014, Cruise Director Carson Turner submitted a written complaint to American Queen supporting the claim of his coworker that this coworker was being sexually harassed by a supervisor. Turner criticized American Queen for failing to stop the harassment. Turner also criticized a high-level company manager for alerting the alleged harasser, a friend of that manager, about the coworker's complaint. The manager confronted Turner about his complaint and threatened his job. Turner reported this retaliatory conduct to his immediate supervisor, but the supervisor took no remedial action. And in May 2015, American Queen fired Turner, even though his supervisor told him that he had done "nothing wrong."
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination, including opposing the sexual harassment of a coworker. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (EEOC v. American Queen Steamboat Company, Civil Action 17-cv-02669), after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting American Queen from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activity in the future, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Turner. The agency's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Liane T. Rice of the EEOC's New York office, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Raechel Adams.
"An employee who reports the sexual harassment of a coworker is doing the workplace and the employer a big favor," said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "Such whistleblowers are entitled to the fullest protection of the law, and the EEOC will fight to see they get it."
Kevin Berry, the EEOC's New York District director, added, "This case shows clearly the critical importance of employers training their supervisors to respond appropriately and effectively to discrimination complaints - and certainly never to punish someone for reporting such misconduct."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.