West Texas Cap Maker Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

Co-Owner Pulled Employee’s Pants Down in Front of Co-Workers, Federal Agency Charged

WICHITA FALLS, Texas – A Crowell, Texas-based cap manufacturing facility has agreed to settle a sexual harassment and constructive discharge lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s suit charged that Crowell Contract and Design, Inc. subjected embroidery machine operator Deanna Collins to a sexually hostile work environment created by the president and a co-owner of the company, Timmy Christopher. According to the EEOC, Christopher would tug on Collins’ pants and made multiple threats to Collins to pull down her pants. He followed through with these threats when he pulled her pants down in front of her co-workers, humiliating and embarrassing her, the EEOC said. The continuing harassment, culminating in this invasive behavior, forced Collins to resign her position, according to the EEOC.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In February 2007, Collins filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, initiating an investigation by the agency’s Dallas District Office. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 7-08-CV-0038-O) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Wichita Falls Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

“This settlement should serve as a notice to employers that the EEOC does not consider the threat or the act of pulling a woman’s pants down in the workplace to be a sophomoric prank,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Crowell. “This kind of conduct is invasive, offensive, and a violation of federal law.”

Under the settlement, Crowell Contract and Design has agreed to pay Collins $21,500 and will take corrective measures, including providing training to all its employees regarding the law against sexual harassment and the proper procedures for investigating complaints of discrimination. The company has also agreed to post a notice informing its employees of the law and to whom they can complain if they believe they have been harassed in the workplace. The company is also enjoined from further discrimination on the basis of gender, including sexual harassment, and from retaliating in any way against person for reporting or complaining about discriminatory practices.

Devika Seth, senior trial attorney with the EEOC’s Dallas office, said, “To have such a high-level official subject a subordinate employee to such mistreatment has the potential to establish the acceptance of such behavior in the workplace. We hope this settlement shows that there will be accountability when such an abuse of power occurs. We are proud that Ms. Collins came forward and asserted her right to work in a harassment-free environment.”

During Fiscal Year 2007, the EEOC and state and local fair employment practice agencies received a combined total of 12,510 sexual harassment charge filings nationwide, the first annual increase since FY 2000.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.