A Louisiana credit union, without any admission of liability, agreed to pay a former branch manager $110,000 to settle a retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year.
In a three-year court decree settlement announced Dec. 19, EEOC’s federal lawsuit alleged Lafayette Schools Federal Credit Union, now known as the $200 million Meritus Credit Union in Lafayette, fired Connie Fields-Meaux in retaliation for her opposition to showing what she alleged was a racially offensive video during a training session.
“While Meritus continues to deny the allegations in the lawsuit, we prefer the certainty of resolution over the cost of continued legal proceedings,” Meritus CU said in a prepared statement. “The settlement is not an admission of liability, and we strongly maintain no violation has occurred. We at Meritus Credit Union value the dedicated service of our employees and we are committed to providing a positive workplace environment with equal opportunity for all.”
In addition to the monetary settlement, MCU also agreed to non-monetary relief such as providing regular training to its employees on retaliation, according to the decree settling the lawsuit approved by U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk in New Orleans.
The lawsuit alleged that the credit union used the video, which depicted a caricature of a black fast food worker, as an example of how not to provide customer service.
Fields-Meaux, who is African-American and managed the branch in Crowley, left the training session because she found the video to be racially offensive. She later reported that another employee, who is also black, had told her that he found the video offensive, as well.
Within days, the credit union fired her without warning or explanation.
What happened to the former branch manager violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful for an employer to fire – or otherwise retaliate against – an employee because the employee implicitly or explicitly opposed conduct that he or she reasonably believed was unlawful, according the EEOC.