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EEOC alleges firm violated consent decree, allowed further acts of prejudice


NEW YORK—The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Grand Central Partnership Inc., charging it violated a consent decree and committed new illegal acts when it fired a black Rastafarian security officer in retaliation for his complaints about threats of violence and racism.

The EEOC said that in 2009, the agency and GCP—which is a nonprofit developer of real estate, offices and facilities around the Grand Central Terminal area in New York—settled a lawsuit about GCP's treatment of Rastafarian and Caribbean security officers. Under the agreement, the parties agreed GCP would offer accommodations for the Rastafarians' religious practices and not retaliate against Rastafarian security officers for their participation in the lawsuit.

As part of that settlement, GCP is still subject to supervision by the federal court in that action, according to the EEOC.

The new lawsuit, which was filed Friday in federal district court in New York but announced Tuesday, says that in 2010, a non-Caribbean security officer threatened to shoot and kill a group of Rastafarian security officers. After a white security supervisor made light of the threat, Rastafarian security officer Frantz Seraphin objected to the supervisor's conduct and past discrimination.

He also called the supervisor a racist “for referring in the past to a group of Rastafarians with the ‘N word' and threatening to stand in the way of their getting paid for their work,” according to the EEOC.

After Mr. Seraphin complained to the supervisor and telephoned the EEOC, GCP fired him about three months later.

According to the lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking on behalf of Mr. Seraphin, a black Haitian who had worked at GCP since 1997, back pay with prejudgment interest, compensation for pain and suffering and mental anguish, and punitive damages, among other things.

EEOC Regional attorney Elizabeth Grossman said in a statement that the “EEOC is particularly concerned when it obtains a consent decree to stop violations of the law and the employer turns around and ignores the settlement by reverting to the illegal behavior. We will pursue vigorously retaliation claims against employers whose managers would rather not comply with court orders and fire individuals who object to threats based on their religion and bias based on race.”

The GCP responded in a statement, that it is “an equal opportunity, not-for-profit corporation that has clear and published policies against discrimination, workplace violence and unprofessional behavior to ensure that all employees can work in an environment free of harassment, intimidation and fear. The grounds for dismissal of the complainant, which occurred nearly two years ago, were based on these longstanding and important policies.

“While we are disappointed by this filing, we are quite confident that this action has no merit and that that GCP’s reasonable and appropriate actions in this matter will be vindicated by the court.”