Miss. ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ Settles Dancers’ Discrimination Suit
A gentleman’s club in Mississippi agreed to pay $50,000 and take corrective actions to settle a race discrimination lawsuit over the treatment of its dancers.
The suit, brought by the EEOC against Danny’s Cabaret in Jackson, claimed that the club gave black dancers “less advantageous terms and conditions of employment than white entertainers, including openly segregated work schedules.”
The complaint also alleged that the black workers were retaliated against for opening an initial EEOC inquiry. After one of the women contacted the EEOC, she claims the hours of four black women were reduced, fines against them were instituted and one was forced to quit.
Danny’s, which advertises itself as the oldest and largest adult entertainment club in Mississippi, will also have to revise its policies to prevent discrimination, improve training for employees and institute a better process for workers to make confidential discrimination and retaliation complaints.
“Employers who allow their workplaces to be havens for racial harassment and retaliation are not meeting their obligations under federal law,” Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, said in a press release. “When employers choose not to meet those obligations, the EEOC is prepared to pursue all appropriate means to hold them accountable.”
Steven Murray, senior trial attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, added, “This action demonstrates the EEOC’s broad commitment to eradicating racial discrimination and retaliation in all workplaces. We are pleased that Danny’s has resolved this matter early in the litigation and will be a leader in implementing better policies and procedures to eliminate discrimination.”
Discrimination against employees based on race is illegal under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as are other protected categories such as color, sex, religion and national origin. Other federal statutes also protect against age and disability discrimination, and taking retaliatory action against an employee for instituting a complaint is also illegal.
“An employee who complains of race discrimination is protected from being fired or otherwise retaliated against for making the complaint,” says Toni J. Jaramilla, chair of the California Employment Lawyers Association. “Retaliation includes any adverse act against the employee, such as termination, of course, but also demotion, changes in job duties, decrease in pay, transfer to a less desirable location, etc.”
The protections are interpreted broadly, and include both acts of discrimination as well as hostile work environments due to jokes, insults, slurs or other types of harassment based on one of the protected categories.
“Title VII prohibits BOTH race and color discrimination,” Jaramilla notes. “Discrimination based on skin color, discrimination based on other race-linked characteristics, discrimination based on stereotypical assumptions about a racial group, segregation by race, use of selection criteria with an adverse impact on race (i.e., if criteria requires tallness, it might adversely impact against Asians), association discrimination, and harassment based on race.”
An employee who feels he or she has been discriminated against should contact their local EEOC office and file a charge.
“The EEOC will send a copy of the charge to the employer and will investigate the charge,” explains Jaramilla. “During the investigation, there may be opportunity for mediation and settlement if all parties (employer and employee) agree to mediate. Or the EEOC may conclude in an investigation that there was discrimination and the EEOC will litigate against the company.”
Employees can also retain their own attorney to sue the company once they get a right to sue letter from the EEOC. A private attorney can also advise if it would be more beneficial to advance a claim under relevant state civil rights protections, which could offer more protections or more favorable recourse depending on the circumstances.