First Wireless Group to pay $435,000 to settle EEOC Suit

A New York-based company that refurbishes cell phones at its factory in Long Island will pay $435,000 to settle a wage discrimination and retaliation suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced recently.

EEOC had charged that First Wireless Group Inc. engaged in a pattern or practice of race and/or national origin discrimination against a class of Hispanic workers by paying them less for doing the same job as Asian employees and by firing those who complained about the unlawful pay disparity.

"The EEOC is particularly concerned when employers retaliate against people who have the courage to speak out against discrimination," said Adela Santos, EEOC senior trial attorney. "This is clearly illegal and we will fight such misconduct."

According to EEOC's lawsuit (Civil Action No.03-CV-4990) filed in September 2003 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, after a group of former Hispanic employees became aware that Asian employees were being paid $1.50 to $2.00 or more per hour for performing the same work, they circulated a petition asking for equal pay. Rather than looking into the employees' complaints, EEOC said, First Wireless responded by firing them and others they believed were involved.

The case was resolved pursuant to a four-year consent decree signed by Judge Joanna Seybert. The settlement requires that First Wireless pay $435,000 to a class of victims who came forward and testified about their discriminatory treatment.

"We are pleased that everyone who stepped forward to testify will be compensated," said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., EEOC New York district director. "The EEOC will protect every worker's right to a workplace free of unlawful mistreatment by any employer."

The company must also take substantial steps to prevent future workplace discrimination, including: posting a remedial notice; ensuring that it has a compensation system in place that does not discriminate; and training its managers, supervisors, and human resource employees on federal laws that prohibit discrimination.

First Wireless also revised its antidiscrimination policy and complaint procedure and will be distributing it to all its employees. The company is also enjoined from discriminating against anyone on the basis of race or national origin and from retaliating against anyone who complains about discrimination.

The federal court will retain jurisdiction over this case for the next four years to ensure that all obligations under the consent decree are met.

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