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Grand Central Partnership settles EEOC suit asserting that black Rastafarian security officer was fired for complaining of bias, threatened violence

Grand Central Partnership, Inc. will pay $135,000 to settle a lawsuit asserting that the nonprofit developer of real estate, offices, and facilities around New York City’s Grand Central Terminal unlawfully fired a black Rastafarian security officer for his complaints about threatened violence and racism and his participation in an earlier lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s latest lawsuit against the company, a non-Rastafarian security officer threatened to shoot a group of Rastafarian officers. When the Rastafarians complained, a white security supervisor allegedly made light of the physical threat and implied the Rastafarians were at fault. A Rastafarian security officer who objected to the supervisor’s reaction and complained that he heard the supervisor had referred to the Rastafarians by the “N-word,” contacted the EEOC about the incident and was then fired for doing so, the EEOC said in a statement on March 5.

In 2008, the EEOC sued Grand Central Partnership for failing to accommodate the religious beliefs of four Rastafarian employees who needed modifications to its dress code. That lawsuit was resolved by a 2009 consent decree that prohibited the company from retaliating against Rastafarian security officers for their participation in the lawsuit. This latest EEOC lawsuit alleged that the employer unlawfully terminated the Rastafarian security officer and breached the earlier consent decree, which was still subject to supervision by the federal court.

In addition to the monetary relief to be paid to the security officer, the new consent decree requires Grand Central Partnership to conduct extensive training on investigating discrimination complaints, including methods for proper documentation and unbiased assessment of witness credibility, and to regularly report to the EEOC about any further complaints of religious discrimination or retaliation.

“When the EEOC enters into a consent decree, it will remain involved to assure that an employer does not punish those who complained about discrimination,” said Elizabeth Grossman, EEOC regional attorney. “We are hopeful that this second consent decree with Grand Central Partnership will ensure that future discrimination does not occur.”

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Southern District of New York; the case number is 11 Civ 9682.