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Goodwill Industries of Southwest Oklahoma & North Texas Inc. has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit in which it was charged with retaliating against an employee who had testified on another worker's behalf in a sex and age discrimination lawsuit, the agency said.
Goodwill separately said it denies the charges and settled the lawsuit to avoid further costs.
The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that the Lawton, Oklahoma-based unit of Rockville, Maryland-based Goodwill Industries International Inc. retaliated against Mary Goulet, a worker at its Lawton store, by firing her after she testified on the behalf of another Goodwill employee in a previous federal sex and age discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
In addition to the monetary award, the consent decree settling the suit is designed to prevent future discrimination, including by providing for notification to employees, revision and dissemination of antidiscrimination polices, and training in anti-retaliation law, the EEOC said Tuesday in a statement.
“Our employment discrimination laws depend on the ability of witnesses to freely provide information to the courts and to the EEOC,” EEOC senior trial attorney Jeff Lee said in the statement. “American jurisprudence is based on that principle. The EEOC will do whatever is necessary to ensure that witnesses can be confident that when they testify in employment discrimination proceedings, there will be no reprisals against them.”
“Most of the allegations in the lawsuit, which has been ongoing for three years, were thrown out by a federal judge but a claim of retaliation remained to be tried,” Goodwill said Wednesday in a statement. “Although vigorously disputed by Goodwill Industries, which believed the remaining claim was defensible, the former insurance company of Goodwill chose to avoid further costs caused by the litigation and settled the financial terms with the plaintiff. The settlement will not cost Goodwill any money.
“Goodwill prides itself as an organization that combats discrimination and works to improve the lives of disabled individuals. Goodwill supports anti-discrimination laws and will voluntarily work with the EEOC to jointly sponsor a local business seminar on disability discrimination and accommodation for businesses in the Lawton area.”
Goodwill's attorney did not identify the insurer.
The overall number of charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decreased in fiscal year 2013, but retaliation charges continued to be the most frequent accusation in number of charges and as a percentage of all charges, the agency said Wednesday.