BIRMINGHAM — ABL Management, a Baton Rouge-based food management company, has agreed to pay $35,000 in a settlement agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

ABL agreed to the sum following a retaliatory discrimination lawsuit that was filed by the EEOC with regards to Duane Gatson, a former ABL employee.

Gatson and ABL attempted to reach a settlement using a conciliation process. When that failed, the EEOC filed a lawsuit.  

The case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida,  alleges that ABL assigned Gatson a job working as a cook in the Bay County Jail Facility. While alone on the job, Gatson claims he was groped by a kitchen manager, which he reported immediately to his supervisor. He was told the company would investigate the matter. He was fired a few weeks ago. 

The EEOC alleged the firing was punishment for the accusations, which would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to court documents. 

“The allegations in the EEOC complaint do not reflect the values of ABL, and rather than expend resources on litigation, we chose to settle this case," an ABL spokesperson told the Louisiana Record in a statement. "We remain committed to a discrimination-free and retaliation-free workplace, and we value our diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Delner Franklin-Thomas, EEOC Birmingham district director, said in a press release that the case was a warning to other businesses.

"Employers should be aware that the law protects employees who report this kind of misconduct and that the EEOC will enforce laws that protect workers' rights," Franklin-Thomas said.

The settlement also requires the company to put procedures into place to prevent future discrimination, including implementing anti-discriminatory policies, training for employees and anti-discriminatory notices posted in workplaces. 

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