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Image of a Goodwill store in Oregon
A Goodwill Store in Oregon; image courtesy of Steve Morgan via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org

In a recent agreement to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, Goodwill Industries of the East Bay Area “and an affiliate will pay $850,000 to eight current and former employees,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit was originally filed by the EEOC against Goodwill and Calidad Industries Inc., after “six female janitors assigned to work the night shift at the federal building in Oakland alleged they faced routine sexual harassment by their direct supervisor.”

Of the defendants in the case, many were “young women with developmental disabilities who were relatively new to the workforce and were employed by Goodwill and Calidad’s janitorial operations under a federal government contract.” When discussing the lawsuit, one of the women, Crystal Edwards, said:

“I was only 19 years old when I worked at Calidad. It was my first job and I enjoyed being able to earn my own money. But after my boss put his arms around me, I did not feel safe at work and my complaints were ignored. I am glad the EEOC filed this lawsuit to stop the harassment and to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Image of the EEOC seal
Seal of the EEOC; image courtesy of U.S. Government via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Another woman, Phyllis Sloan, also spoke up. As a former employee, she said, “I reported the harassment as soon as it started but nothing changed. So I went to the EEOC and they were able to help me.”

Lisa Short, a former manager chimed in, saying, “Within weeks of my start date, my employees trusted me enough to describe the harassment they faced on the night shift. I knew my job could be on the line but I needed to make sure my workers were safe.” According to the EEOC, even after Short voiced concerns and defended her employees to higher management, she grew concerned when “higher management failed to take effective action.” As a result, she played a vital role in helping the women working under her file their “discrimination complaints with the EEOC.”

Shortly after the complaints were filed, EEOC officials launched an investigation with investigator Christopher Green leading the charge. After gathering evidence and looking at the facts, the EEOC actually attempted to settle the complaints “through its conciliation process,” but those efforts failed.

So what will Goodwill and Calidad be required to do under the settlement signed by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers? Well, in addition to having to pay $850,000 to the plaintiffs, the companies will have to “revise their equal employment opportunity policies and complaint and investigation procedures, institute supervisor accountability policies concerning discrimination issues, train their workforce and hire a consultant to monitor any responses to future complaints,” according to the settlement.

Goodwill Industries has yet to comment on the court’s decision.

Editor’s note: Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay’s Chief of Staff reached out to us with a statement from CEO Jim Caponigro after this story published. The statement follows:

“At Calidad Industries and Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay, we don’t tolerate sexual harassment. Our responsibility as an employer – particularly an employer of vulnerable individuals – is to ensure that our employees are able to be and do their best every day.

The allegations described in the EEOC’s complaint are upsetting and intolerable, and would be addressed much differently today than they were in 2012.

This settlement does not include an admission of wrongdoing. However, as a result of these allegations and after a comprehensive review of our operations by new management, we have proactively made a number of changes – including many of the changes suggested by the EEOC – that will help us to better protect and empower our employees. These include:

  • Calidad Industries has been completely restructured to ensure it is delivering on its mission; in addition to other changes, we now employ a full-time employee advocate and a dedicated compliance officer, and provide more extensive harassment training.
  • We’ve opened an incident reporting hotline for both Calidad Industries and Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay employees. This hotline is managed by an independent third party, allowing employees to anonymously report incidents of concern.
  • To ensure employees understand how to report misconduct, we share our policies both during new employee orientation and annually. The policies and training outline various ways to report abuse, from going to a trusted supervisor or Human Resources representative, to reaching out to the CEO.
  • • Moving forward, we’ll be working with independent advisors to ensure our processes and investigations are working as they should. This will include working with a consultant to ensure that our harassment and discrimination policies are understood and accessible to all members of our workforce, including those individuals who may have learning, developmental and/or other disabilities.

We are very different organizations today than we were when these incidents and allegations were first raised and investigated in 2012. We are proud to work every day in the pursuit of our mission: turning donations into jobs – offering lifetime purpose and opportunity.”

Sources:

Goodwill To Pay $850K To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Goodwill organization in Calif. settles EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit

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