The Justice Department announced today the filing of a lawsuit against Lee County, Fla., alleging that the county discriminated against three Hispanic employees on the basis of race and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.
Title VII is a federal statute which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin or religion.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, Fla., alleges that Lee County discriminated against trades workers Marco Ferreira, Eduardo Rivera and Leonides Sepulveda by subjecting them to racial and ethnic harassment over a period of approximately two years beginning in 2007 and ending in 2009.
According to the complaint, these employees were subjected to the discriminatory actions of several of their co-workers who regularly used racial and ethnic slurs, repeatedly mocked Ferreira’s and Rivera’s accents, refused to perform work assigned by Rivera and made false accusations against Ferreira and Rivera to Lee County’s Office of Equal Opportunity in an effort to have the county terminate the two employees.
The United States alleges that despite timely complaints about the harassment by the workers to their supervisors, as well as direct observation of the harassment on several occasions by county supervisory employees, Lee County failed to take any meaningful steps to stop the harassment or discipline the harassers until January 2009, when the harassers were terminated.
Through this lawsuit, the United States is seeking to have Lee County develop and implement policies that would prevent its employees from being subjected to harassment based on race or national origin as well as monetary damages for the victims.