EEOC Sues Philips Lighting For Sexual Harassment

DALLAS -- Philips Lighting Entertainment, a division of Philips Electronics North America Corp., subjected a female employee to a barrage of sexual remarks, touches, and lewd sexual exposure by the manager of her department and co-workers during her employment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC, Kewanda Lawson was hired by Philips Lighting Entertainment in May 2007 as a temporary employee and became a permanent Warehouse Lead in September 2007. Lawson was the only female in Philips Lighting’s Dallas warehouse department. Even before becoming a permanent employee, the EEOC alleges that Lawson experienced unwelcome sexually vulgar comments, advances, and touches by the warehouse manager, Trent Bertrand, and by several male warehouse workers. She endured unwanted touches, requests for sexual relations, money being rubbed on her body, forced kisses, derogatory names such as “b---h” and “slut.” One employee even exposed himself to her on the job. Lawson reported the harassment to management but nothing was done to stop the harassing conduct or impose timely discipline on the harassers. Ultimately, Lawson resigned.

“It is unacceptable and illegal for an employee to have to endure continuous and unwelcome sex-based comments and conduct while on the job; and even worse, for a company to fail to act when complaints are made,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Devika Seth. “A company this size should have the knowledge and resources to effectively handle complaints of sexual harassment. In this case, Phillips failed in its duty to comply with the law.”

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Civil Action No. 3:11-CV-02431-O), was brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and requires an employer to prevent and promptly correct sexual harassment. The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief. The agency filed suit after investigating the case, finding reasonable cause to believe that the alleged discrimination took place, and first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

“We would have liked to resolve this case short of litigation, but sometimes law enforcement is needed to enlighten employers,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “This facility of Philips Lighting has apparently been willing to operate in the dark with regard to its duty and responsibility to provide a healthy working environment for its employees.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

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