Whirlpool Settles EEOC Race and Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for One Million Dollars

NASHVILLE – Whirlpool Corporation agreed to drop its appeal of a race and sex harassment judgment for over one million dollars and resolve the case with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Plaintiff-Intervenor, the federal agency announced today. The settlement comes almost six years to the day after the EEOC’s Memphis District Office first filed suit on June 9, 2006.

The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 3:06-0593 filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee) had charged that Whirlpool violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it did nothing to stop a white male co-worker at a Whirlpool plant in LaVergne, Tenn., from harassing an 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 violently assaulted, without any corrective action by the company. The trial also established that the employee suffered devastating permanent mental injuries that will prevent her from working again as a result of the assault.

At the conclusion of the bench trial, Judge John T. Nixon entered a final judgment and awarded the employee a total of $1,073,261 in back pay, front pay and compensatory damages on December 21, 2009. Whirlpool filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment on January 15, 2010 which the district court denied on March 31, 2011.

On April 26, 2011, Whirlpool appealed the judgment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The company withdrew its appeal on June 11, 2012 and agreed settle the case with the EEOC and plaintiff-intervener for $1 million and court costs. The plant where the discrimination occurred had closed during the litigation period.

“Employers have a responsibility to address and remedy race and sex harassment in the workplace,” said P. David Lopez, EEOC General Counsel. “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.”

Commission Attorneys Corbett L. Anderson and Lorraine C. Davis represented the EEOC during the appeal.

Attorneys Helen Rogers of Nashville and Andy Allman of Hendersonville, Tennessee intervened in the case and represented the plaintiff-intervener for the trial and appeal.

According to its web site, Whirlpool Corporation, with world headquarters in Benton Harbor, Mich., “is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, with annual sales of approximately $19 billion in 2011, 68,000 employees, and 66 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world.”