Blockbuster, Inc. Ordered to Pay $2 Million for Discrimination and Retaliation

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blockbuster, Inc. has entered into a consent judgment requiring it to pay over  $2 million to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged the  Dallas-based global entertainment retailer with subjecting female temporary employees  to sexual harassment, retaliating against them for resisting sexual advances  and complaining, and subjecting Hispanic temporary employees to national origin  and race harassment and other discrimination.  The litigation concerned events that occurred in 2004 and 2005 at a distribution  center in Gaithersburg, Md.

In its suit  filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (EEOC v. Blockbuster Inc., Case No. RWT-07-CV-2612), the EEOC charged  that the male supervisory staff engaged in and condoned the harassment of a  class of seven female employees, four of whom are Hispanic. The EEOC charged that the incidents of  harassment committed by Blockbuster supervisors included repeated requests for  sexual favors; yelling; insults; threats; unwelcome sex-related questioning; offense  racial remarks; touching women’s intimate body areas; and other discriminatory  conduct. This pervasive and unlawful  conduct culminated in the denial of work hours, discriminatory firings, forced  resignations and other discriminatory actions, according to the EEOC.

Such  alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to  reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Blockbuster filed a bankruptcy  petition during the pendency of this case, which remains pending in the U.S.  Bankruptcy Court, and it has discontinued its former business operations.

“This case should act as a warning  to all employers who use staffing agency personnel,” said EEOC Philadelphia  Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence, whose jurisdiction includes Maryland. “Employers who are customers of staffing  agencies have a responsibility to protect their temporary workers from unlawful  discrimination. Too frequently, such employers  fail to create systems to prevent and detect abuse of temporary workers and  fail to respond forcefully to it. Those  employers do so at their peril.”

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