Metro Special Police & Security Services, Inc. Sued by EEOC for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Metro Special Police & Security Services, Inc., a Charlotte-based provider of private security and public safety services, violated federal law by subjecting male employees to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The EEOC also charged the company with unlawfully suspending, demoting and/or discharging some male employees for complaining about sexual harassment or filing discrimination charges with the EEOC.

According to the EEOC's suit, Officers James Pedersen, Eric Steele, Daniel Griffis and a class of similarly situated male employees were subjected to sexual harassment by a captain and a lieutenant employed by the company. The EEOC contends the captain made offensive comments to his male subordinate employees, solicited nude pictures from them, asked male employee to undress in front of him, and solicited male employees for sex. The captain and lieutenant forced male employees to accompany them to gay strip bars while on duty. The captain touched the chests and genitals of male employees. Additionally, the captain offered promotions to male employees in exchange for sex. The lieutenant asked a male employee if he had sex with males or females.

Male employees complained about the captain's and lieutenant's conduct by telling them to stop, and they complained to their supervisor and the company's owner/CEO, the EEOC said. In spite of the complaints, the company failed to prevent and promptly correct the harassment. In addition, certain employees who complained were suspended, demoted and/or discharged, the agency charges.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Metro Special Police & Security Services, Inc, Civil Action No. 3:13-CV-39), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency seeks back pay for those claimants entitled, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for all claimants, and injunctive relief.

"All employees, men and women alike, are entitled to a workplace free from sexual harassment," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "It is particularly alarming when sexual harassment is perpetrated by a high-ranking supervisor, the company shuns its legal responsibility to stop it, and employees suffer retaliatory acts for lawfully voicing their concerns."

Tina Burnside, supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC's Charlotte District Office, added, "Under Title VII, employers have a legal duty to ensure that sexual harassment does not permeate the workplace, and employers are responsible for ensuring that their supervisors know that sexual harassment is against the law and will not be tolerated."