BILOXI, Ms. (AP) — A military manufacturer and a contracting company are being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly ignoring claims of sexual assault by staff members on Coast Guard ships in Mississippi, a news outlet reported.
Huntington Ingalls Industries and NSC Technologies are both accused of ignoring pleas for help from women on a cleaning crew who claimed that a supervisor on a Coast Guard ship in Mississippi assaulted them and coerced one of them into having sex, the Sun Herald reported.
The EEOC lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Alabama and accuses the two companies of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace or retaliation against those who report it. According to court documents, both companies were notified of the lawsuit in May 2021.
Huntington Ingalls Industries is the largest military shipbuilding company in the nation and NSC Technologies is a staff contracting company. Both are based in Virginia. The women in the lawsuit worked for NSC on the Coast Guard ship at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi. According to local news outlets, they accused a Huntington Ingalls supervisor of assaulting and harassing them over the course of several months.
The lawsuit does not indicate how many women were harassed but details specific cases of two women and others on the cleaning crew of a Coast Guard ship at Ingalls.
The EEOC is asking the U.S. District Court judge to order the companies and their employees to halt sexual harassment and retaliation, and begin training programs that will prevent further abuse.
The federal agency also asked the court to punish the companies for “malicious and reckless conduct,” back pay and compensation for the women’s financial losses and emotional suffering.
According to the lawsuit, the supervisor sexually harassed and abused the women multiple times from September 2017 until May 2018 by groping them, making vulgar comments, and masturbating in front of them. He forced one woman to have sex with him on a ship in November 2017 by threatening her job, court documents say.
The women’s immediate supervisor at NSC was “well aware” of the harassment, the lawsuit says. The NSC supervisor reported the complaints to an NSC branch manager who took no action and later said his concern was with keeping the company’s contract with Huntington Ingalls, the lawsuit says.
In April 2018, a second woman was fired after she refused to have sex with the Huntington Ingalls supervisor. The woman then reported the harassment and termination to an NSC recruiter.
“(The recruiter) acknowledged that she knew other female employees had made similar complaints but that there was nothing she could do and emphasized that (the woman) should not do anything that would cause NSC to lose its contract with HI,” the lawsuit says.
The supervisor accused of harassment threatened one women, saying she would lose her life if he lost her job after she and several others called the Huntington Ingalls hotline in April 2018.
Huntington Ingalls “permitted (the supervisor) to continue to work around . . . female employees, which allowed him to continue harassing them and gave him the opportunity to threaten (one woman’s) life,” the lawsuit says.
NSC closed its office in Mobile this week, a company branch manager told the Sun Herald. Neither NSC nor Ingalls Shipbuilding has responded to requests for comment from the Sun Herald.