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EEOC Sues Compass Group USA For Sex Discrimination and Retaliation

Food Service Supplier for UTMB Denied Female Employee a Promotion Due to Her Sex, Federal Agency Charges

Morrison Management Specialists Inc., a division of Compass Group USA Inc., unlawfully denied a promotion to a female shift supervisor to an open sous chef position because of her gender, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a recently filed lawsuit.

According to the EEOC's suit, Patricia Joyce was employed the company's University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) location in Galveston, Texas, when a sous chef position opened. Joyce applied and was interviewed for the position, along with two male applicants. Thereafter, in a meeting with Executive Chef Jeff Inman, Joyce learned that an external male applicant had been selected for the position. Inman informed Joyce that he believed that the professional kitchen is a "man's world" and he wanted to get it back to being that way. Joyce objected to the sentiment. Inman told her she needed to transfer to another of the company's locations because she was no longer a good fit at the Galveston location. He subsequently reiterated these beliefs in an email to her.

A few weeks later, following a complaint to the company's human resources department about his actions towards Joyce, Inman sent her a second email, again confirming his position that the kitchen is a "man's world," telling her that she would never be a sous chef with the company and she had better take the transfer to the other location. He also very strongly objected to human resources having been contacted about him, telling her that he was a "god" at Compass Group USA and that the company would not believe her. As a result, Joyce was subjected to a compulsory transfer and demotion since, following the transfer, she was no longer a supervisor and experienced a cut in her pay.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex with regard to promotions. In addition, employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee or applicant because the person opposed discriminatory conduct. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00057) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation processes.

The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief to prohibit the Compass Group USA from engaging in future unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex, instatement of Joyce into a sous chef position, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Joyce and any other relief the court deems proper.

"Employers' biased views and stereotypes about gender roles have no place in the workplace," said Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the Houston District Office of the EEOC. "The Houston District will vigorously enforce the laws that prohibit sex discrimination and retaliation against workers who have the courage to stand against it."

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC's Houston District Office, added, "Employers cannot act on their own stereotypic assumptions and perceptions about gender when making employment decisions. Such conduct is illegal."

EEOC's Houston District Office is located on the sixth floor of the Leland Federal Building at 1919 Smith Street Houston, Texas.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.