Goodwill Allowed Harassment of Female Janitors, EEOC Says

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By Kevin McGowan

Goodwill Industries and a nonprofit affiliate unlawfully permitted the sexual harassment of female night-shift janitors who cleaned the Oakland, Calif., federal building, the EEOC alleged in a lawsuit filed in federal district court ( EEOC v. Goodwill Indus. of the Greater East Bay Area , N.D. Cal., No. 16-7093, complaint filed 12/13/16 ).

Goodwill and Calidad Industries placed the female janitors under a program for employing people with disabilities and allowed a male supervisor to harass at least five of them, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged.

The complaint was filed Dec. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The harassment occurred from at least 2009 through July 2012, when the General Services Administration revoked the alleged harasser’s access to the federal building, the EEOC said.

Goodwill and Calidad also retaliated against two supervisors who supported the women’s harassment claims and helped them file EEOC charges, the commission said.

It alleged disability bias under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as unlawful harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Goodwill Denies Wrongdoing

Goodwill did its own investigation after becoming aware of the employees' complaints but found nothing to substantiate the harassment charges, said Jim Caponigro, president and chief executive officer of Goodwill of the East Bay Area Inc.

The organization nevertheless transferred the alleged harasser to another location, Caponigro told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 15.

Goodwill performed its “due diligence” on both the sexual harassment claims and the alleged Americans with Disabilities Act violations but its investigations found no wrongdoing, Caponigro said. It takes such claims “very seriously,” he said.

Goodwill met with the EEOC in an attempt to settle the matter, but the agency never shared its findings with the organization, Caponigro said.

There's been “no exchange of information” with the EEOC since those talks ended in 2014, he said.

Three employees who alleged harassment still work as janitors for Goodwill and they haven't lodged any further complaints, Caponigro said.

Time Studies Lead to ADA Claims

Most of the janitors were employed through a program providing jobs for persons with disabilities. Calidad is a nonprofit organization created by Goodwill to help individuals with disabilities receive paid on-the-job training, according to Goodwill’s website.

The same supervisor who harassed the female janitors also manipulated the required work performance time studies to deny them pay increases, the EEOC alleged.

“It’s unfortunate that a program designed to assist workers with severe disabilities to secure a foothold in the workplace instead permitted a supervisor to exploit his authority” over vulnerable workers, said William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco district director, in a Dec. 13 statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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