Goodwill Settles Harassment Claims From Workers With Disabilities
SAN FRANCISCO — Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay and its nonprofit affiliate, Calidad Industries, will pay $850,000 to eight former and current employees to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charged that six female janitors who worked the night shift at the Oakland Federal Building were routinely sexually harassed by their supervisor. Two managers were disciplined and retaliated against for supporting the women’s claims, and one was compelled to resign, according to the suit.
Goodwill Industries is a nonprofit that provides job training and other services to people who have barriers to getting other jobs, and Calidad was specifically designed to help workers with mental or physiological impairments.
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The workers who were sexually harassed included young women with developmental disabilities who were were working under a federal government contract. The employees who came forward were employed between 2009 and 2012.
“I was only 19 years old when I worked at Calidad — it was my first job, and I enjoyed being able to earn my own money,” former employee Crystal Edwards said in a statement. “But after my boss put his arms around me, I did not feel safe at work. My complaints were ignored.”
Another former night janitor, Phyllis Sloan, said she reported the harassment “as soon as it started, but nothing changed.”
She was one of a few to approach the EEOC, which took up the case.
Lisa Short, one of the former managers at Calidad, said in a statement that employees described sexual harassment on the night shift within the first few weeks of her start date.
She complained but said her concerns were ignored, prompting her to contact the EEOC. The lawsuit was filed in December 2016.
Jim Caponigro, CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay and Calidad Industries, told the San Francisco Chronicle that no other incidents of sexual harassment have occurred since the last woman came forward in 2012.
“Since 2012, we haven’t had any other issues,” he said. “A lot of it is because of things we proactively implemented from working with the EEOC.”
He noted that the company set up a third-party hotline for complaints, and a dedicated employee advocates for proper workplace behavior.
Caponigro, who became CEO in 2016, also said that Calidad Industries has restructured its entire management since the time of the incidents and that the manager accused of harassment left the nonprofit voluntarily in 2015, before the lawsuit was filed.
However, the manager apparently wasn’t disciplined immediately after the women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment.
William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco district director, said the manager in question was “ultimately given a transfer that resulted in a significant pay raise” before leaving the nonprofit three years ago.
“In this case, there were many factors that contributed to the vulnerability of these janitors — all were African American, many were young females new to the workplace, with disabilities, working the isolated night shift,” Tamayo said. “Employers must take proactive measures to stop predators who would abuse their power over vulnerable workers.”
© 2018 San Francisco Chronicle
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