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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Texas Company Settles With the EEOC

DALLAS (CN) - Courtesy Building Services, a Dallas-Fort Worth janitorial and construction firm, settled an EEOC complaint accusing it of sexually harassing and pressuring women employees to enter into sham marriages with foreigners seeking U.S. citizenship.

In its 2010 complaint, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Courtesy forced its former operations manager Melissa Gaona and other women to work in a "good old boy" atmosphere, where comments about their bodies, unwanted touching and sexual comments "were a constant occurrence."

The EEOC said Courtesy pressured Gaona and others, as part of their jobs, to marry noncitizens who were friends of management. The marriages were "for the purpose of furthering attainment of citizenship for the noncitizen."

"I wanted to get ahead, but my boss told me I wasn't going to amount to anything if I didn't try one of these marriages," Gaona said, according to a statement from the EEOC. "I felt dirty the whole time that I worked there. Changing that situation for other women that might work there was worth fighting for."

Courtesy must pay a former employee $27,500 in damages and attorney fees, and will be subjected to EEOC monitoring for 7 years.

In a rather unrepentant statement to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Gary Smith, president of Courtesy's janitorial division, said: "The only reason we settled ... is that some things cost more to fight than to settle."

Kent Starr, the company's Plano attorney, told the Star-Telegram he knows of no evidence of Gaona's being married.

"It's undisputed she was a willing participant in a sham marriage which never occurred," Starr said. "That's what's rather perplexing about it. There's no evidence that a marriage ever occurred. There's no evidence of any money exchanged."

But Smith said the company will follow the EEOC's decree "100 percent."

"All of this will come out on the Judgment Day," Smith told the newspaper. "The Lord has set a judgment date for everybody and everything."

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