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EEOC alleges manufacturer fired employee who complained of harassment

EEOC alleges manufacturer fired employee who complained of harassment

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a federal lawsuit against a Havre de Grace plastics manufacturing company, alleging it fired a temporary worker after she complained of sexual harassment.

Carrie Vargas was assigned by a temporary employment agency to work at Plastipak Packaging Inc.’s Havre de Grace facility as a materials handler in 2014, according to the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Vargas was assigned to work with a permanent employee at the Plastipak facility, the suit states. The employee attempted to establish a sexual relationship with Vargas, but when she rejected him, he began a “campaign” of reporting her to their supervisor for alleged work rule violations, which were typically false accusations, according to the complaint.

On June 24, 2014, Vargas told her immediate supervisor that she believed the employee was sexually harassing her. The next morning, Plastipak informed the temp agency — which is not named in the lawsuit and is not a defendant — that the company had terminated Vargas’ employment, adding that the decision was in Vargas’ “best interest,” the suit states.

“It is never in anyone’s best interest when an employer engages in retaliation,” Spencer H. Lewis Jr., district director of EEOC’s Philadelphia district office, said in a statement. “Such conduct only magnifies the problem. It hurts the worker who loses a job through no fault of her own and it harms the employer who then may be liable for both sexual harassment and retaliation.”

Efforts to reach Plastikpak’s corporate office for a response were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit alleges Vargas was fired in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment, and it seeks a permanent injunction preventing Plastipak from violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in further retaliation against employees who make similar complaints.

The suit also seeks an order requiring Plastipak to post a notice informing employees about the lawsuit and about their rights under Title VII, as well as back pay with interest for Vargas and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

“Federal law protects all employees, including temporary workers, from being subjected to unwelcome sexual advances and from being fired for complaining about such harassment,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a release.

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Plastipak Packaging Inc., 1:16-cv-03278-ELH.

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