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Mercury Air Centers pays $600k in settlement

Class-action lawsuit claims seven Burbank employees faced discrimination and sexual harassment.

August 11, 2010|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

Mercury Air Centers has agreed to pay seven Burbank employees and other members of a class-action lawsuit $600,000 to settle claims that they experienced racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

Atlantic Services Inc. — which purchased Mercury Air Centers at Bob Hope Airport after the lawsuit was filed in 2008 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — also agreed to a two-year consent decree that calls for the appointment of a workplace oversight officer.

Mercury Air Centers provides jet services at Bob Hope Airport, including lounges for pilots and passengers, car arrangement and rentals, a courtesy shuttle service and hangar space.

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The officer would ensure compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws.

According to an announcement from the federal commission, the seven employees — including one Filipino male and six Latino males — were harassed by a Salvadoran male co-worker at the airport.

He allegedly hurled racial epithets and sexual remarks at the claimants and at least two black employees beginning in 2004. The man, who was not identified in the settlement agreement announcement, was promoted despite complaints regarding his behavior, according to the commission.

Neither Mercury Air Centers in Burbank nor Atlantic Services could not be reached for comment Tuesday regarding the settlement.

The employment status of the alleged harasser and the victims could not be confirmed.

"We commend Atlantic Services for taking steps to rectify the hostile work environment that persisted at Mercury Air Centers," said Anna Park, the regional attorney of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Los Angeles District Office. "Rewarding bad behavior simply sends out the wrong message to employees."

The commission has also recommended the equal employment opportunity officer at Mercury Air Centers ensure compliance with an anti-discrimination policy, training, procedures and reporting requirements as prescribed by the commission.

Olophius E. Perry, district director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Los Angeles District Office, added that the case is only one of many as the American workforce becomes increasingly more diverse and the potential for inter-minority and same-sex discrimination rises.

"Employers must be mindful not to downplay such forms of discrimination, which can be just as demoralizing to the workforce as more traditional civil rights violations," Perry said.

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