GULFPORT -- A lawsuit alleges an employment agency discriminated against at least 34 women who wanted jobs collecting trash cans in Harrison County.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit Oct. 26 against Workplace Staffing Solutions LLC, a Louisiana-based company that had an office in Gulfport. The office operated on U.S. 49 near Oak Lane.
Workplace Staffing Solutions in Gulfport hired 100 to 130 men for temporary trash can collector jobs in September and October of 2012 but refused to hire qualified women for the position, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. The staffing agency reportedly had at least 15 employees at its office on U.S. 49 near Oak Lane but has since closed its Gulfport office.
The lawsuit seeks a trial and punitive and compensatory damages, including back pay for the women, and an injunction ordering the business to stop discriminating on the basis of sex.
"The law demands that women receive equal employment opportunities," EEOC attorney C. Emanuel Smith said in a written statement.
"Employers are not allowed to presume that women would not be interested in or capable of performing certain types of jobs. This lawsuit should remind employees that EEOC will take action when a company impermissibly makes hiring decisions based on gender stereotypes."
Daniel Ranson, a Louisiana attorney who represents Workplace Staffing, could not be reached immediately for comment.
The EEOC said it began investigating the business after Jonika Walton lodged a complaint that she had tried to apply for one of the advertised positions but was told the job was for "males only."
Walton had seen advertisements for the position and contacted the WIN Job Center in Biloxi, which referred her to Workplace Staffing, the lawsuit said. Walton reported a female employee at Workplace Staffing told her the WIN Center should have noted the job was open only to men.
Walton didn't bother to fill out an application, but about 33 other women did, and they had the qualifications but weren't hired, the lawsuit said.
The EEOC alleges it notified the company of discriminatory hiring practices Aug. 6, 2013, and tried to reach a settlement, but Workplace Staffing failed to agree to an acceptable resolution.
The lawsuit alleges the business has "a pattern or practice" of violating federally protected rights since at least September 2012 and has acted "with malice or with reckless indifference."
Court records show the company's attorney has 60 days from Nov. 2 to waive the service of summons and save that expense. If the court receives no response, a default judgment will be entered.