U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Albertsons Companies Inc. et al

Filing 1

COMPLAINT with Jury Demand against Albertsons Companies Inc., DOES 1-5, No Fee Required, filed by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)The new case number is 3:18-cv-00852-MMA-BGS. Judge Michael M. Anello and Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal are assigned to the case. (Park, Anna)(jrm) (jao).

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Anna Y. Park, CA SBN 164242 Sue J. Noh, CA SBN 192134 2 Rumduol Vuong, CA SBN 264392 U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT 3 OPPOR!UNITY COMMISSION 255 East Tem2le Street, Fourth Floor 4 Los Angeles, CA 90012 5 Telephone: (213) 894-1083 Facsimile: (213) 894-1301 6 E-Mail: anna.park@eeoc.gov 1 7 8 Attome~ for Plaintiff U.S. E UAL EMPLOYMENT OPPOR UNITY COMMISSION 9 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 10 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 11 12 13 14 U.S . EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Case No. COMPLAINT • CIVIL RIGHTS • EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION Plaintiff, 15 16 17 18 19 '18CV0852 MMA BGS vs. ALBERTSONS COMPANIES INC. , AND DOES 1-5, INCLUSIVE, (42 U.S.C. §§2000e, et seq.) Defendants. JURY TRIAL DEMAND 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 NATURE OF THE ACTION This is an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I 27 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 ("Title VII") to correct unlawful employment 28 practices on the basis of national origin and to provide appropriate relief to -1- Guadalupe Zamorano, Hermelinda Stevenson (collectively referred to herein as 2 "Charging Parties") and a class of similarly aggrieved individuals who were 3 adversely affected by such practices. As set forth with greater particularity in 4 paragraph 15 of this Complaint, Plaintiff U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity 5 Commission asserts that Defendants Albertsons Companies Inc. and Does 1-5 6 (collectively referred to herein as "Defendants"), subjected Charging Parties and a 7 class of similarly aggrieved individuals to harassment in violation of Title VII. JURISDICTION AND VENUE 8 9 10 11 1. Jurisdiction of this Court is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 451, 1331, 1337, 1343 and 1345. 2. This action is authorized and instituted pursuant to § 7 06( f)( 1) and 12 (3) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e- 13 5(f)(l) and (3), ("Title VII") and§ 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. 14 § 1981(a). 15 ,., .) . The employment practices alleged to be unlawful were committed 16 within the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Southern District 17 of California. PARTIES 18 19 4. Plaintiff U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission("Plaintiff," 20 "EEOC," or the "Commission") is an agency of the United States of America 21 charged with the administration, interpretation and enforcement of Title VII and is 22 expressly authorized to bring this action by§706(f)(l) and (3) of Title VII, 42 23 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(l) and (3). 24 5. At all relevant times, Albertsons Companies Inc. ("Albertsons") has 25 continuously been an Idaho corporation doing business in, amongst other places, 26 San Diego County, State of California, and has continuously had at least fifteen 27 (15) employees. 28 6. At all relevant times, Defendant Albertsons has continuously been an -2- employer engaged in an industry affecting commerce within the meaning of 2 3 Sections 701(b), (g) and (h) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-l (b), (g), and (h). 7. All of the acts and failures to act alleged herein were duly performed 4 by and attributable to all Defendant(s), each acting as a successor, agent, alter ego, 5 employee, indirect employer, joint employer, integrated enterprise and/or under the 6 direction and control of the others, except as specifically alleged otherwise. Said 7 acts and failures to act were within the scope of such agency and/or employment, 8 and each Defendant participated in, approved and/or ratified the unlawful acts and 9 omissions by the other Defendants complained of herein. Whenever and wherever 1O reference is made in this Complaint to any act by a Defendant or Defendants, such 11 allegations and reference shall also be deemed to mean the acts and failures to act 12 of each defendant acting individually, jointly, and/or severally. 13 8. Plaintiff is ignorant of the true names and capacities of each 14 Defendant sued as DOES 1 through 5, inclusively, and therefore Plaintiff sues said 15 defendant( s) by fictitious names. The Commission reserves the right to amend the 16 complaint to name each DOE defendant individually or corporately as it becomes 17 known. Plaintiff alleges that each DOE defendant was in some manner responsible 18 for the acts and omissions alleged herein and Plaintiff will amend the complaint to 19 allege such responsibility when the same shall have been ascertained by Plaintiff. STATEMENT OF CLAIMS 20 21 9. More than thirty days prior to the institution of this lawsuit, Charging 22 Parties filed charges of discrimination with the Commission alleging violations of 23 Title VII by Defendants. 24 25 26 10. Subsequent to the Charging Parties filing their charges of discrimination, the EEOC investigated the charges against Defendant Albertsons. 11. On July 10, 2017, the Commission issued to Defendant Albertsons 27 Letters of Determination finding reasonable cause to believe that Charging Parties 28 and a class of employees were subjected to disparate treatment and a hostile work ,., __, - environment because of their national origin (Hispanic and/or Mexican) in 2 violation of Title VII. The Commission made a further like and related finding 3 that there was reasonable cause to believe that the Charging Parties and a class of 4 similarly situated individuals were subjected to discrimination on the basis of 5 national origin (Hispanic and/or Mexican) and/or race (Hispanic) in violation of 6 Title VII which lead to discipline. The Commission further invited Defendant to 7 join with the Commission in informal methods of conciliation to endeavor to 8 eliminate the discriminatory practices and provide appropriate relief. 9 12. The Commission engaged in communications with Defendant 1O Albertsons to provide Defendant with the opportunity to remedy the 11 12 discriminatory practices described in the Letters of Determination. 13. The Commission was unable to secure through informal methods of 13 conciliation, including but not limited to an in-person conciliation conference, 14 from Defendants a conciliation agreement acceptable to the Commission. 15 16 17 18 19 14. On January 23, 2018, the Commission issued to Defendant Albertsons Notices of Failure of Conciliation. 15. All conditions precedent to the initiation of this lawsuit have been fulfilled. 16. Since at least 2012, Defendants have engaged in unlawful 20 employment practices in violation of§§ 703(a)(l) and 704 of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 21 §§ 2000e-2(a)(l) by subjecting the Charging Parties and a class of similarly 22 aggrieved individuals to harassment on the basis of national origin. The unlawful 23 employment practices include but are not limited to: 24 a. In or about 2012, Albertsons developed an unwritten English-only 25 policy, which Albertsons implemented as essentially a no Spanish policy. In a 26 training video, managers and employees were instructed that employees should not 27 speak Spanish as long as there was a non-Spanish speaking person present. 28 Pursuant to those instructions/training, Richard Brown, Store Director of Store -4- #6785, located on Lake Murray Blvd in San Diego, California, implemented a no 2 Spanish policy. Brown and other supervisors communicated to the Charging 3 Parties and other Hispanic employees that they could not speak Spanish anywhere 4 on the premises regardless of whether they were on break. b. Brown and others verbally harassed Hispanic employees, telling 5 6 them not to speak Spanish, threatening them with discipline, and publicly 7 reprimanding them for allegedly speaking Spanish. c. Charging Party Guadalupe Zamorano has worked for Defendant 8 9 Albertsons since August 2007. She worked in Albertsons Store #6785 , located on 10 Lake Murray Blvd. In October 2012, Brown reprimanded Zamorano in front of the 11 store for speaking Spanish. d. After the counseling session, Zamorano called Albertsons ' hotline 12 13 to complain about Brown ' s conduct and prohibition against speaking Spanish at 14 work. e. Defendants failed to take corrective action in response to the 15 16 complaint by the Zamorano. Upon receipt of the Charging Party Zamorano ' s 17 complaint, a union representative investigated the complaint, and told Zamorano 18 that she needed to speak English because she was living in the United States. There 19 was no further action taken in regards to the complaint. f. Charging Party Zamorano was reprimanded by Brown again on or 20 21 about December 6, 2012 for speaking Spanish even though she was speaking with 22 a Spanish-speaking customer. Brown again instructed her to only speak in English 23 at work. 24 g. As a result of the harassment, Charging Party Zamorano requested 25 a transfer to a different store on or about November 22, 2013 . She wrote on her 26 transfer request form that she was requesting the transfer because of the 27 harassment she was subjected to . Brown refused to submit her transfer request unti 28 she filled out a form that did not include the statement about harassment. -5- h. Charging Party Hermelinda Stevenson has worked for Defendant 2 Albertsons since 1989, and was transferred to Store #6785 in August 2012. In 3 October 2012, Stevenson was also reprimanded by Brown in front of the store for 4 speaking Spanish for the same incident that Zamorano was reprimanded for. 5 Charging Party Stevenson and her coworkers were prohibited by Brown and 6 Assistant Store Director Jerri Burleson from speaking Spanish at work, even 7 during breaks in the break room. As a result of the harassment and monitoring 8 from management, Charging Party Stevenson and other workers would leave the 9 premises to eat lunch in order to feel comfortable. 1o i. Charging Party Stevenson requested a transfer to a different store on 11 or about June 3, 2013 in part because the harassment and other issues at work were 12 making her physically sick, including anxiety and stomach issues. j. Other Albertsons employees were not allowed to speak Spanish and 13 14 were subjected to harassment, including but not limited to one employee being 15 instructed not to speak Spanish by a department head as managers did not like 16 when she spoke Spanish, another employee was harassed by coworkers when she 17 spoke in Spanish, and an employee was told by the managers that the employees 18 could not speak Spanish anywhere even with Spanish speaking customers. k. Other non-Hispanic employees were not subjected to harassment or 19 20 21 subjected to the no Spanish policy. 17. The effect of the practices complained as described in paragraph 16 22 has been to deprive Charging Parties and a class of similarly aggrieved individuals 23 of equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affects their status as 24 employees because of their national origin, Hispanic and/or Mexican. 25 18. The unlawful employment practices complained of in paragraph 16 26 above were intentional and caused Charging Parties and a class of aggrieved 27 individuals to suffer emotional distress. 28 19. The unlawful employment practices complained of in paragraph 16 -6- above were done with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally 2 protected rights of Charging Parties and a class of aggrieved individuals. PRAYER FOR RELIEF 3 4 Wherefore, the Commission respectfully requests that this Court: 5 A. Grant a permanept injunction enjoining Defendants, their officers, 6 successors, assigns, and all persons in active concert or participation with each of 7 them, from engaging in national origin harassment and any other employment 8 practice which discriminates on the basis of national origin; B. 9 Order Defendants to institute and carry out policies, practices, and 1O programs to ensure that they would not engage in further unlawful employment 11 practices in violation of§§ 703(a)(l) and 704 of Title VII; C. 12 Order Defendants to make Charging Parties and a class of aggrieved 13 individuals whole by providing compensation for past and future pecuniary losses, 14 including where appropriate back pay and front pay with prejudgment interest on 15 any lost pay and benefits, in amounts to be determined at trial; D. 16 Order Defendants to make Charging Parties and a class of aggrieved 17 individuals whole by providing compensation for past and future non-pecuniary 18 losses resulting from the unlawful employment practices complained of above, 19 including emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, humiliation 20 and loss of enjoyment oflife, in amounts to be determined at trial; E. 21 Order each Defendant to pay Charging Parties and a class of 22 aggrieved individuals punitive damages for its intentional, malicious, and reckless 23 conduct described above in an amount to be determined at trial; 24 F. Award the Commission its costs of this action; and 25 G. Grant such further relief as the Court deems necessary and proper in 26 the public interest. 27 III 28 III -7- JURY TRIAL DEMAND 1 2 3 The Commission requests a jury trial on all questions of fact raised by its Complaint. 4 5 Dated: May 3, 2018 Respectfully Submitted 6 7 JAMES L. LEE, Deputy General Counsel 8 9 10 GWENDOLYN YOUNG REAMS, Associate General Counsel 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION 131 "M" Street, NE. Washington, D.C. 20507 ....-::::::::::·- --;; L\ - c·~;1-~ By: . ~/~ ANNK Y.PARK Regional Attorney SUEJ. NOH Supervisory Trial Attorney RUMDUOL VUONG, Supervisory Trial Attorney U.S. EOUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPOR!UNITY COMMISSION 23 24 25 26 27 28 -8-

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