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EEOC settles discrimination lawsuit for $300,000 against car wash

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reached a $300,000 settlement in a racial discrimination lawsuit against Maritime Autowash, the federal agency announced Wednesday.

In a lawsuit filed in August 2017, the EEOC alleged Maritime, later known as Phase 2 Investments, Inc., segregated Hispanic workers into lower-paying jobs at its Edgewater location, such as laborer or detailer. They were not offered promotions or other advancement opportunities even if they exhibited outstanding job performance. The company paid many Hispanic workers minimum wage despite multiple years of service while non-Hispanic workers were paid higher wages and given promotions, the lawsuit states.

“After enduring more than five years of EEOC investigation and litigation, these discrimination victims can finally close this chapter in their lives and move on knowing that they have made a difference for other vulnerable workers,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Maria Salacuse in a press release.

An attorney for Phase 2 called the settlement a “business decision” and said the company “denied and continues to deny all of the allegations that were made by the charging parties,” in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

Phase 2 contends that the EEOC filed charges without investigating the claims and never spoke to anyone in management at the car washes or conducted a site visit. After charges were filed, then-Maritime filed affidavits and photographs rebutting the claims, said attorney Donna E. McBride, partner at Miller Miller & Canby, Chartered in Rockville.

The EEOC alleged the company forced Hispanic workers to perform additional duties without compensation and denied them safety equipment and clothing, according to the complaint. The workers were made to do personal work for the owner and managers at their homes; female employees were asked to clean houses while male employees were directed to do landscape work and clean pools, according to the complaint.

Workers who complained about the discriminatory treatment were fired, the lawsuit states.

In 2016, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals enforced the EEOC’s authority to subpoena evidence as part of its investigation into Maritime.

The EEOC alleged Maritime’s conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Maritime is not currently running any facilities and does  not have any employees, but a three-year consent decree entered by the company and the EEOC prevents Maritime from retaliating against any individual asserting their rights under Title VII in the future. If Maritime reopens, the company will be enjoined from creating a hostile work environment or offering lower pay and conditions of employment based on race or national origin, according to the consent decree.

The company will also pay $300,000 in compensatory damages to the original complainants and class members.

The case is EEOC v. Phase II Invest­ments, Inc., formerly known as Maritime Autowash, Inc. and Maritime Autowash, II, et al., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02463.


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