EEOC sues New Mexico contractor for sexual harassment and retaliation

On behalf of Connie Rybal at Moody & Warner, P.C.

The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws against illegal employment discrimination and harassment.

On September 25, 2018, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC sued Atlas Electrical Construction Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, alleging same-gender sexual harassment as well as retaliation in violation of federal civil rights law that makes discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics unlawful.

Allegations of same-sex harassment

In a press release, the EEOC, the federal agency charged with enforcing U.S. anti-discrimination laws in employment, said that its lawsuit alleges a male work-site superintendent created a sexually hostile work environment by engaging in ongoing sexual harassment against male workers consisting of suggestive name calling and comments, sexual innuendo and an incident of sexual touching.

The press release cites an EEOC official who stated that about 10 percent of sexual harassment complaints received by the agency are from males, usually alleging targeting by other men, which is also illegal under federal law against sexual harassment. Another official says that about half of the agency’s discrimination claims include allegations of employer retaliation (such as demotion, firing or other negative actions) for speaking up against discrimination or harassment, for filing a claim or for cooperating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Allegedly, the company did not act to stop the harassment after receiving a complaint nor did the employer respond appropriately when a male employee requested a transfer to escape the abusive conduct. That employee reportedly left work, told Atlas he was going to file a claim and filed the claim with the EEOC. Thereafter, Atlas terminated his employment, allegedly in illegal retaliation for complaining internally and filing the complaint with EEOC.

The agency facilitated an attempt at settlement between the parties using its conciliation process, but when it failed, filed the suit.

Requested legal remedies

The EEOC is asking the court to:

  • Pay affected male employees damages like back wages, compensatory wages and punitive damages (those meant to punish a wrongdoer)
  • Order Atlas to stop allowing sex discrimination or retaliation in its workplaces
  • Order Atlas to create internal policies and practices that will stop and prevent future sexual harassment and retaliation

Any New Mexico employee facing issues of sexual harassment at work should speak with a lawyer to understand potential legal remedies, but do not delay as deadlines may apply.

Likewise, any New Mexico employer should seek guidance from an experienced employment attorney to set up policies and procedures designed to prevent discrimination or harassment, including creation of employee manuals, and complaint and investigation procedures. Of course, any employer facing such allegations should immediately consult legal counsel.

The lawyers of Moody & Stanford, P.C., in Albuquerque represent both employees and employers across New Mexico in issues of employment discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment and retaliation.