Vulnerable Workers Win Settlement Against Hamptons Employer

The EEOC has just announced another case settled involving “vulnerable” workers – right here in New York’s summer playground for the global super-wealthy. The settlement – for $582,000 – resolved a sexual harassment lawsuit by eight women against a commercial laundry service in the swanky Hamptons.

Pool, Swimming, Swimming Pool, Relaxing

In an October post, I noted that one of the priorities under the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is protecting “vulnerable” workers.  And I said “think Henry’s Turkey workers — who were ripe for exploitation.”

I described a case settled then by the EEOC which illustrated the EEOC’s commitment to vulnerable workers, a case which involved two potato packing companies in Colorado which allegedly permitted the sexual harassment of female workers by a supervisor.

In the similar, newly-settled suit, the EEOC alleged that the “manager physically and verbally sexually harassed multiple women who worked at the facility. Over the course of several years, the manager regularly touched them on their buttocks, hips, and backs, forcibly kissed them and made comments about their appearance and body parts. … The workers were all recent immigrants from Mexico or Central America who did not speak English and were largely unaware of their rights. …”

As I noted before, workers are “vulnerable” to discrimination and harassment for many reasons and in many situations, but usually where they are powerless and have low-status jobs.  They may fear running afoul of immigration laws; they may be unable to speak English; they they may be physically isolated in the job, be it in a field or in an empty warehouse.  Or perhaps they are mentally or developmentally challenged.

These laundry workers seem to fit the bill all too well.

Woman, Children, Florence Thompson

As to the new settlement, the EEOC General Counsel reaffirmed that “This resolution represents yet another example of EEOC’s efforts to end discriminatory workplace practices against vulnerable workers who often live in the shadows of the economy.”

Apropos the current national hysteria about immigration, which poses as a “debate,” I could not stop thinking about how this case nicely illustrates just who is doing the most menial work in this country — the work that “Americans” do not want to do — and who is benefiting.

And who is most vulnerable.



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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]