Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Inc. and its staffing provider have agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced July 18.

Case background. According to the EEOC, female employees sent by staffing provider NSC Technologies LLC to work on a cleaning crew at Huntington Ingalls’ shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment and retaliation for complaining about the sexual harassment. Specifically, according to the lawsuit, a male ship superintendent employed by Huntington Ingalls 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, the EEOC reported.

Two female employees reported this sexual harassment to their immediate and higher-level supervisors at NSC, and to a complaint hotline at Huntington Ingalls. 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 EEOC filed suit in federal court after its Mobile, Alabama, local office completed an investigation and was unable to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits an employer from permitting a hostile work environment based on sex or retaliating against employees who complained about such conduct. As part of the settlement, Huntington Ingalls and NSC will pay $350,000 to at least three victims and develop or revise policies and procedures to prevent and correct sexual harassment. The companies are also required to conduct training for employees and managers to ensure compliance with these policies and the law. The EEOC will monitor the companies’ compliance for the duration of the decree.

In an article in Staffing Industry Review magazine, attorney Jean Hyams shared tips on how contingent workforce programs, staffing firms and their investigators can handle complaints in ways that will fix the problem instead of inviting a lawsuit.

The case is EEOC v. Huntington Ingalls Inc.; Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.; NSC Technologies LLC.