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The Maxwell House Coffee Division of Kraft Foods Global, Inc., violated federal law when it subjected a female employee at its Jacksonville, Fla., coffee plant to discriminatory terms and conditions and discipline and terminated her on the basis of her sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on October 27.
The EEOC’s suit, Case No. 3:10-cv-00887-UATC-JBT, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, said that Francena Smith was disciplined more harshly that her male co-workers when they were involved in incidents where coffee was damaged, and was then fired because of her gender.
Gender discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“Subjecting a person to different standards and discipline simply because of the person’s gender is just plain wrong,” said EEOC acting district director Delner Franklin-Thomas. “When management allows a female employee to be disciplined more harshly than similarly situated male employees for making the exact same mistakes, it is not living up to its obligation under federal law to protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sex.”
Although an arbitrator ordered Smith reinstated in March 2010, she did not receive any monetary damages. EEOC acting regional attorney Robert E. Weisberg of the agency’s Miami District Office said, “The arbitrator’s decision does not affect the EEOC’s ability to bring this lawsuit. The EEOC has the independent authority to file suit.”
According to company information, Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods is the world’s second-largest food company, with annual revenues of $48 billion.
The EEOC Miami District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The Miami District Office has a Field Office in Tampa and a Local Office in San Juan.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s Web site at www.eeoc.gov.