Shipbuilder, staffing agency settle sex harassment lawsuit stemming from reported assaults of women working on cleaning crew at Mississippi shipyard

Published 5:37 am Thursday, July 21, 2022

A staffing agency and a military contractor have agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit over the behavior of a man who worked as a Mississippi shipyard supervisor against women who worked on a cleaning crew.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the settlement in a news release Monday, the same day a consent decree in the case was filed in U.S. District Court in southern Mississippi.

“Employers, including staffing agencies, are obligated to protect their employees from a sexually hostile work environment and to protect them from retaliation once they report harassment,” Marsha Rucker, a regional attorney for the EEOC, said in the news release.

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The federal agency sued staffing agency NSC Technologies and shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Inc. last year over incidents that occurred from September 2017 to May 2018.

The suit originally was filed in federal court in Alabama, and the case was moved early this year to Mississippi. Ingalls Shipbuilding is in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Huntington Ingalls Industries is the largest military shipbuilding company in the nation, and NSC Technologies is a staff contracting company. Both are based in Virginia.

The lawsuit accused Huntington Ingalls Industries and NSC Technologies of ignoring pleas for help from women on a cleaning crew who said a supervisor employed by Huntington Ingalls assaulted them, coerced one of them into having sex and had “an ongoing sexual relationship” with another woman, which included demands for specific acts.

NSC had sent the cleaning crew to work at the shipyard. The Huntington Ingalls employee was a superintendent on a Coast Guard ship at the yard in Pascagoula.

The news release said the man “made sexual comments to female employees, engaged in lewd acts in front of them, threatened to terminate them if they did not acquiesce to his sexual advances and sexually assaulted two female employees.”

Two women reported the sexual harassment to their supervisors at NSC and made a complaint on a Huntington Ingalls hotline. After that, the ship superintendent “terminated one female employee who refused his advances, prompted another to quit out of fear he would assault her and threatened to kill a third female employee after she reported his assaults,” the news release said.

The consent decree requires the two companies to review their policies against discrimination and retaliation and to revise them, if necessary. The policies must contain clear definitions of sexual harassment and retaliation and a statement about the consequences of violating the policies. The companies also must train their employees against discrimination and retaliation.