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US authorities sue firm for harassment against Indian employee

June 30, 2011 12:56 IST
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Law booksThe US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit against one of the world's largest security firms for failing to stop the harassment of an Indian descent guard on June 28, according to a press statement.

Guardsmark not only ignored the employee's reports of harassment, but retaliated against him with an involuntary transfer, the EEOC said.

Nayyar, a naturalised US citizen, filed his charge in February of 2008.

He began working at Guardsmark in 2005.

Nayyar worked as a security guard for Guardsmark for five years.

"He is no longer with the company but he still works in security," said Linda Li, program analyst at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC's investigation determined that Nayyar, 66, was working as a security guard for Guardsmark in San Jose, faced constant harassment regarding his Indian origin and his age.

And his co-worker repeatedly ridiculed Nayyar's turban and accent and told Nayyar 'you're too old' and 'you need to retire.'

Nayyar made numerous complaints to supervisors, but Guardsmark took no action to address the harassment, the EEOC said.

Instead, Nayyar was involuntarily transferred, which ultimately led to a reduction of his hours and lost benefits.

Nayyar ultimately resigned from Guardsmark.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers have a legal obligation to stop discrimination based on national origin and age.

Both laws also strictly prohibit retaliation against workers who report discrimination.

The EEOC filed civil action suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The

suit seeks back pay and other monetary losses, compensatory and punitive damages for Nayyar and appropriate injunctive relief to prevent any future discrimination.

"The law is very clear: all employees have the right to work in an environment free from hostility, intimidation and ridicule," said EEOC Regional Attorney William R Tamayo.

"Employers have a duty to respond promptly and adequately to reports of discrimination. Those who choose to ignore harassment or respond with retaliation will be held accountable in court by the EEOC."

Nayyar said, "When I told my managers about the harassment, nothing happened, and then, worse yet, I suffered retaliation for speaking out.

"All I wanted was to be able to do my job in peace. I am thankful that the EEOC has taken my case."

EEOC district director Michael Baldonado noted, "Punishing the employee who speaks out will only multiply your problems.

"First, you are failing in your legal obligation to investigate and stop harassment.

"Second, you add the new offense of illegal retaliation. "Third, you send a message to your entire work force that an employee complains at his or her own peril.

"A workplace where employees are afraid to speak out against harassment can evolve into a toxic environment where harassment becomes the norm."

Baldonado noted that retaliation cases represent one of the fastest growing types of charges filed with the EEOC.

In fiscal year 2010, retaliation charge filings across the country increased 6 percent over the last five years to a record 30,948 cases.

Guardsmark provides uniformed security personnel to businesses worldwide, with more than 150 offices throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, France and Singapore.

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