Whirlpool Corporation agreed to drop its appeal of a race and sex harassment judgment for more than $1 million and resolve the case with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced today.
The settlement comes nearly six years to the day after the EEOC's Memphis District Office first filed suit on June 9, 2006.
The EEOC's lawsuit had charged that Whirlpool violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it did nothing to stop a white male co-worker at a Whirlpool plant in La Vergne, Tenn., from harassing and African-American female employee because of her race and sex. The abuse lasted for two months and escalated when the co-worker physically assaulted the black employee and inflicted serious permanent injuries.
During a four-day bench trial, the court heard evidence that the employee repeatedly reported offensive verbal conduct and gestures by the co-worker to Whirlpool management before she was assaulted, without any corrective action taken by the company. The trial also established that the employee suffered permanent mental injuries that prevent her from working again as a result of the assault.
At the conclusion of the trial in December 2009, the judge entered a final judgment and awarded the employee a total of $1,073,261 in back pay, front pay and compensatory damages. Whirlpool filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment on Jan. 15, 2010, which the district court denied in March 2011.
In April 2011, Whirlpool appealed the judgment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. The company withdrew its appeal on Monday and agreed t settle the case with the EEOC and plaintiff for $1 million and court costs.
The plant where the discrimination occurred closed during the litigation period.
"Employers have a responsibility to address and remedy race and sex discrimination in the workplace," daid P. David Lopez, EEOC general counsel in announcing the settlement. "The EEOC stands ready to vigorously prosecute violations of the law through trial if necessary. We are pleased that the parties were finally able to bring this litigation to a close."