Grand Junction moving firm settles discrimination claim
Grand Junction-based Mesa Systems, a moving and storage company, agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced earlier this week.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Hispanic employees at the company’s Salt Lake City branch were subjected to a hostile work environment, including racist name-calling by warehouse managers.
This is the largest national origin employment discrimination settlement ever achieved by the EEOC in Utah, federal officials said.
Mesa Systems denied any wrongdoing, Director of Human Resources Barb Girodo said.
“This stems from some allegations that were made all the way back in 2007,” Girodo said. “We are committed to compliance with all employment laws.”
Mesa Systems was looking forward to defending itself in court, “but the cost would have been devastating to our employees and our business so we made the decision to settle and move forward,” she said.
Mesa Systems maintains its corporate headquarters in Grand Junction, where 45 people work. About 90 people currently work at the Salt Lake City branch. Overall, Mesa employs 250 full-time and about 200 part-time workers, Girodo said.
She declined to say whether the settlement would be paid from its own funds or with proceeds from insurance.
“Obviously, when these kinds of things happen, it makes you take a look at your policies, how you’re training, all of those kind of things,” Girodo said. “We absolutely want to make sure that we are clear with all of our employees and ... that we are creating the environment that we want our employees to work in, which is committed to our core values of pride, respect and trust.”
All Mesa employees receive a handbook explaining the company’s anti-discrimination policies and annual training on the topic, she said.
The EEOC lawsuit alleged employees of various national origins were subjected to a restrictive language policy that unfairly penalized Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders. Some employees suffered retaliation, including terminations and reductions in hours, after two complained, according to the lawsuit.
In addition to the historic monetary settlement of $450,000, Mesa Systems agreed to train employees, revise its policies, post anti-discrimination notices and apologize to the victims.
“Offensive slurs and comments deriding one’s national origin violate federal law and are never appropriate in the workplace. Employers need to ensure that this behavior is not allowed,” EEOC Phoenix District Director Rayford Irvin said.