Nashville-based NDI Office Furniture, LLC, the largest office furniture distributor in the Southern United States, violated federal law by systematically refusing to hire women to work at its Birmingham warehouse, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. When a female job applicant complained to corporate headquarters about the discriminatory policy, NDI unlawfully retaliated against her and her son, an NDI employee, by firing him, the EEOC further charged.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in September 2015 Alicia Jenkins attempted to apply for an open position at NDI’s Birmingham warehouse. When she was told NDI did not hire women for positions in the warehouse, she complained to corporate headquarters. NDI then fired her son, Arceneaux Jenkins, an NDI employee. The EEOC said that NDI discriminated against Alicia Jenkins and a class of women by refusing to even consider them for employment because they were female. Despite more than 90 workers having been employed at the Birmingham warehouse during 2014 and 2015, NDI employed no women at that location.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to fail to hire an individual because of his or her gender, and prohibits employers from retaliating against anyone for complaining about discrimination. Title VII also prohibits an employer from terminating an employee because of a close relative’s discrimination complaint. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. NDI Office Furniture, L.L.C., Case No. 2:18-cv-1592-JHE) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama after an investigation was completed by the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office and after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit was filed on behalf of Alicia Jenkins, Arceneaux Jenkins, and a class of female job applicants. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, hiring into the positions wrongfully denied the female employees, and injunctive relief.

“Employers can’t exclude women from certain jobs based on stereotypes about what work is appropriate for women and for men,” said Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “Federal law requires that all applicants be treated equally without regard to gender.”

Bradley Anderson, district director for the EEOC’s Birmingham District, added, “Retaliation against an employee because of a close relative’s protected activities violates the law just as surely as punishing someone for his own complaint. This lawsuit sends the message that the EEOC will step in and remedy all forms of retaliation, including third-party reprisals.”

The EEOC’s Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.

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