Small business owners are usually treated differently when it comes to running their businesses. For example, if you have less than three employees, you are not governed by some employment discrimination laws.
However, this doesn't mean that you're above the law. It also doesn't mean that the EEOC won't come after your business and you individually for violations of the labor laws.
That's what happened to Frank A. Mora, the owner and operator of the dry cleaning service "Oasis One Dry Cleaners" in McAllen.
Mora was charged with subjecting a female employee to a hostile work environment created by constant sexual harassment, according to the EEOC. Specifically, Mora allegedly solicited sexual favors and approached a female employee speaking in a suggestive manner while placing his hands on her body.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Harassment can be actual touching, requests for sex, or constant sexual jokes (to which the person is not contributing).
When there is a sexual harassment claim, the person affected needs to file a claim first with the EEOC. Then the EEOC will decide whether their claim is valid. If so, the EEOC will notify the employer of the claim, and try to reach a settlement.
With Frank Mora, the EEOC tried to settle before filing its suit, but Mora was not amenable to settlement, according to the EEOC. Therefore, the EEOC filed suit in the Southern District of Texas.
Mora, probably realizing the costs of fighting a federal lawsuit, settled the suit prior to trial by paying the worker $43,000 and the creation of bilingual policies and training to avoid future sexual harassment.
So, while it may seem like no one will notices your new small business in a town like McAllen, don't think that means that the EEOC can't find you.
- Need a Houston Employment Attorney? (FindLaw)
- Preventing Sexual Harassment (FindLaw)
- UTMB Extramarital Affair Firing Not Gender Discrimination (Houston Employment Law Blog)