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Sportswear company sued by the EEOC for discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Fanatics Inc. The litigation accuses the Florida-based athletic apparel company of harassment, racial discrimination and retaliation. The case is likely to attract a great deal of media attention as Fanatics is the world's largest seller of officially licensed sports merchandise and both the National Football League and Major League Baseball have invested in the company. The suit was filed on July 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

The EEOC says that it prepared the lawsuit after a black worker at the company's Jacksonville headquarters stepped forward with allegations of widespread discrimination and harassment. The man claimed that coworkers including team leaders used racist language routinely. Other workers are said to have told EEOC investigators that Fanatics treated its minority workers far more harshly than its Caucasian employees. In a statement released in response to the lawsuit, the company denied the allegations and said that it valued all of its workers regardless of their race.

Fanatics made a name for itself by designing and producing sports merchandise extremely quickly. The company frequently offers hats, t-shirts and other items just minutes after championship games have ended. This efficiency has led to lucrative merchandising deals with all of America's major sporting leagues as well as NASCAR and the PGA Tour.

Attorneys in Florida and around the country with experience in this area may urge employers to take lawsuits of this type seriously and settle them quickly. When employers are hesitant to settle because they fear a wave of similar lawsuits, attorneys could choose to include a nondisclosure clause in their settlement offers.

Source: Bloomberg, "Sports Apparel Giant Fanatics Sued for Racial Discrimination", Eben Novy-Williams and Josh Eidelson, July 24, 2018

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