EEOC Settles Lawsuit Alleging Sex Discrimination Against Males

April 25, 2014
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that it is settling the sex discrimination lawsuit filed against Ventura Corporation. Ventura, based in Puerto Rico, is the wholesaler of beauty products, jewelry and other personal care items to retail sellers. This case should serve to remind us that discrimination is not just a “one way street.” The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that Ventura engaged in a pattern of refusing to elevate male applicants into Zone Manager and Support Manager positions. The case arose upon the complaint of employee Erick Zaya, who was promoted to be a Zone Manager only after he complained about the discriminatory practices. However, once promoted, it was alleged that Ventura set him up for failure and termination in retaliation for his complaints regarding the sex-based hiring practices. Complicating the case, the EEOC charged that Ventura lost or destroyed a significant amount of important evidence, including job applications from qualified male applicants and emails from important decision-makers. If true, this would have constituted “spoliation,” which is the intentional destruction of evidence. As a result, the EEOC sought sanctions against Ventura. The court, agreeing with the EEOC, indicated that if the case proceeded to trial, it would instruct the jurors that they could assume that the missing evidence would support the EEOC’s allegations. Ventura has agreed to pay $354,250 to settle the lawsuit, which includes $150,000 to be paid to the complainant. The remainder of the settlement funds will be distributed to a class of qualified male job applicants who applied, but were not considered by Ventura for Zone Manager or Support Manager positions from 2004 to present. The settlement also requires Ventura to implement a detailed applicant tracking system and actively promote the accountability of supervisors for discrimination prevention. Ventura must provide anti-discrimination training to all of its employees, including specific training to managers who play a role in the hiring process. Finally, the EEOC is requiring Ventura to provide the agency with bi-annual hiring reports for three years. “This case is another reminder that federal law protects both men and women from gender discrimination,” said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “We are pleased that we have been able to secure relief not only for Mr. Zayas, but also for the many qualified applicants who were not considered by Ventura for employment simply because they were male.” If you have any questions about this case or would like to discuss sex discrimination in the workplace, please contact me, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.