National employment agency chain Preferred Labor LLC, doing business as Preferred People Staffing, has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. Preferred Labor agreed to settle the lawsuit after selling its entire temporary day labor business to another employment agency.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Case No. 06-40190), the North Carolina-based employment agency subjected a class of female employees in its Worcester, Mass., facility to unlawful job segregation on the basis of sex and then retaliated against one woman for complaining. The EEOC said that Preferred restricted women to a narrow range of assignments and complied with discriminatory requests from its clients for male-only temporary employees. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment.

This settlement is a stark reminder to businesses: A customer's preference to be staffed or served only by workers of a particular gender is never an excuse to engage in illegal sex discrimination, said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru.

U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV approved a consent decree detailing the settlement. Under the decree, Preferred will pay $250,000 to women who were affected by the discriminatory practices. In addition, the decree provides that if Preferred resumes conducting business as a temporary day labor agency, it will be enjoined from engaging in discrimination or retaliation and will implement policies and procedures prohibiting those practices. Further, the company will have to conduct anti-discrimination training for its employees and managers and take other steps designed to prevent discrimination and retaliation.

We commend Preferred for working cooperatively with us to reach this agreement, said EEOC New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis. The resolution of this lawsuit represents substantial progress in the expansion of job opportunities for women in the temporary labor industry.

Arnold Lizana, the EEOC trial attorney assigned to the case, added, this settlement serves as a reminder that EEOC will take all necessary steps to ensure that job opportunities traditionally reserved for men are open to all employees.

Women who applied or attempted to apply for temporary work with Preferred may be eligible to participate in the settlement and call 800-960-0398 for further information.