EEOC Sues Insurance Firm Sterling and Sterling for Retaliation

Long Island Company Fired Employee After Receiving EEOC Charge, Federal Agency Alleges

NEW YORK – Sterling and Sterling, a Woodbury, N.Y., insurance broker, violated federal anti-discrimination law when it suspended and fired a sales telemarketer for filing an EEOC questionnaire and charge, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, in September 2009, while she was on maternity leave, Rochelle Legette filled out an EEOC questionnaire alleging race and sex discrimination, which was sent to Sterling and Sterling. When she returned to work on February 1, 2010, Sterling and Sterling immediately began scrutinizing her work--she was counseled for poor performance only three days later. Citing the fact that she had made allegations to the EEOC, Sterling and Sterling suspended her on February 19, and fired her two weeks later.

This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Civil Action No. CV-11-4786) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court.

“Federal law protects persons who file EEOC charges, and the Supreme Court has said that an EEOC questionnaire is the same as a charge,” said Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney of the EEOC New York District Office. “Employers cannot retaliate against employees simply because they come to the EEOC.”

Michael J. O’Brien, Senior Trial Attorney in the New York District Office, added that “Although Ms. Legette received good evaluations before she filed her charge, Sterling and Sterling fired her a month after her return to work.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office has jurisdiction over Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and portions of New Jersey.

The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available at