Movable wall and partition maker Hufcor Inc. is facing a federal lawsuit from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after violating federal law by allowing a female plastics worker to be sexually harassed for years and then retaliating against her when she attempted to resist the harassment, according to the Sept. 25 filing.
The female machine operator worked for Hufcor's Total Quality Plastics Inc. (TQP) division in North Prairie, Wis., from May 2007 through February 2013 and was “touched inappropriately on a regular basis by her shift coordinator for three years” of her tenure there, according to an EEOC news release. The manager was fired in May 2012, two days after the victim sought legal counsel when her repeated attempts to report the harassment resulted in retaliation by TQP officials, EEOC said.
The lawsuit alleges that “the plant manager retaliated against her for her complaints by denying her breaks, assigning her difficult work, trying to reduce her wages, denying her advancement opportunities and taking other adverse actions.” Co-workers support the victim's claim that she was punished where others were not punished for the same actions, according the release.
“Despite the focus on sexual harassment over the past 20 years, it continues to be an area which demands our attention — especially where women are working in male-dominated environments,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Dennis McBride who will litigate the case on behalf of the agency. “Retaliation against employees exercising their rights to complain about mistreatment is also an ongoing problem the EEOC needs to combat. And fighting discrimination is always in the public interest. So we have at least three important reasons for pursuing this case.”
McBride said the agency will seek compensatory and punitive damages for the victim, and an order barring future discrimination and other relief, though the amount is still being determined based on the caps set by the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which are set according to the number of employees a company has.
The North Prairie TQP injection molding facility was closed in July 2013, resulting in the layoff of 32 employees. Parent company Hufcor is headquartered in Janesville, Wis., and has manufacturing facilities in Australia, China, Germany, Malaysia and Mexico.
Hufcor representative Mary Scheibel said the company took the employee's concerns seriously, investigating and addressing the problems at the time they occurred.
“Total Quality Plastics operated as an independent company, which closed due to economic reasons in 2013. This matter is a dispute between a former employee and her employer, Total Quality Plastics,” she said via email. “The true facts surrounding this case will be revealed through the legal process. As with any legal matters, further comment on the issue at this time is not appropriate.”