Days before the case was scheduled to go to trial, national department store chain Nordstrom, Inc., opted to settle the Title VII lawsuit brought against it by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which the EEOC alleged Nordstrom violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting Hispanic and black employees to racial and ethnic slurs. While Nordstrom did not admit wrongdoing, it nevertheless agreed to a Consent Decree requiring it to pay $292,500 to 10 former employees, to distribute its anti-harassment policy to all employees in the two Florida stores at issue, and to take other steps to prevent future acts of unlawful discrimination.
According to the lawsuit, an alterations department manager complained that she “hate[d] Hispanics,” and that Hispanics were “lazy” and “ignorant.” She made similar derogatory remarks about African Americans, such as “I don’t like blacks” and “you’re black, you stink.” When the employees complained about the treatment, the manager retaliated by making more racially offensive comments, unfairly berating employees and citing them for alleged performance problems.
The settlement also requires Nordstrom to post a notice regarding the lawsuit and settlement in a conspicuous location at its two stores, written in multiple languages. Included in the notice is a statement that “Appropriate corrective action, up to and including termination, based upon the circumstances involved, shall be taken against any employee (including management personnel) found the have violated the Nordstrom policy prohibiting discrimination.”
Title VII prohibits harassment of employees on the basis of race where the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a “hostile work environment,” or where the harassing conduct results in a tangible change in an employee’s employment status or benefits.