By 1808Delaware, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Press Release
American Freight Management Company, LLC, which does business as American Freight Furniture and Mattress, will pay $5 million in monetary relief and provide job opportunities to women previously denied them, among other relief, to settle a federal nationwide sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency has announced.
American Freight, headquartered in Delaware, operates a nationwide chain of discount furniture stores. The company’s website states that it has over 350 stores located in 40 states and Puerto Rico.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, since at least 2013, American Freight engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of sex discrimination against qualified female job applicants for sales and warehouse jobs at the company’s retail stores. The EEOC’s complaint alleged that managers discarded job applications submitted by women. It also alleged managers made a number of comments that showed their hiring decisions were tainted with bias and sex stereotyping. For example, it alleged that women would not “do as great a job at selling furniture as men,” could not work in the warehouse because “women can’t lift,” and female employees would be “a distraction” to male employees. Some of the company’s stores hired no women for sales or warehouse jobs during many of the years covered by the lawsuit, the agency charged.
This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against job applicants on the basis of sex.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. American Freight Management Company, LLC d/b/a American Freight Furniture and Mattress, Case No. 2:19-cv-00273) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, in Birmingham after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The three-year consent decree settling the suit prohibits American Freight from discriminating against any job applicant on the basis of sex and from engaging in retaliation. In addition, American Freight will appoint a Title VII coordinator to implement American Freight’s equal employment opportunity policies and procedures and oversee the company’s compliance with the decree’s terms. The decree also requires the company to develop a recruitment plan for women in sales and warehouse positions and provide training on employment discrimination and retaliation to all employees. The company will provide periodic reports to the EEOC about how many women apply and how many are hired into sales and warehouse positions.
American Freight will also offer sales and warehouse jobs to qualified female applicants who were previously denied employment. As jobs become available, one in every five vacancies will be offered to eligible and interested women who are part of the settlement.
“Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is absolutely critical to our work to advance equal employment opportunity and to help provide access to good jobs for workers,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “All workers have a right to earn a living free of discrimination, and sex discrimination has no place in hiring decisions.”
Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District, said, “Refusing to hire women, either because of sex-based stereotypes or simply because they are female, is illegal. The EEOC will continue its efforts to eliminate discriminatory barriers for women, through litigation when necessary.”
“We are pleased American Freight worked with the EEOC to reach an early resolution of this case and craft a comprehensive settlement,” said Bradley Anderson, EEOC’s director for the Birmingham District. “The consent decree will benefit applicants who were passed over because of their sex, and the terms in the decree will promote equal opportunity for future applicants.”