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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
11-16-10

Simpsonville Hotel Sued By EEOC For Sexual Harassment And Retaliation

Women Subjected to Sexual Comments, Sexual Propositions, and Touching by Male Supervisor, Federal Agency Charged

GREENVILLE, N.C. – A Simpsonville, S.C., hotel violated federal law by subjecting a class of female employees to a sexually hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The EEOC’s lawsuit further charged that one woman was unlawfully fired in retaliation for complaining about the sexual harassment.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Imperial Investments Greenville, Inc. and its corporate parent, Imperial Investments Group, Inc., doing business as Holiday Inn Express in Simpsonville, S.C., created and maintained a hostile working environment for Tamara Byrd and a class of similarly situated female employees based on their gender. According to the complaint, from at least August 2007 until January 2009, the hotel’s male general manager subjected women to unwelcome sexual misconduct. The abusive behavior included inappropriate sexual comments, sexual advances and unwelcome touching. On at least two occasions, the general manager also exposed himself to another female employee, the EEOC said. 

According to the complaint, when Byrd reported the sexual harassment to the companies’ corporate office, the companies failed to investigate or stop the harassment, closing the investigation the same day the complaint was received after the general manager denied the allegations.  The general manager then terminated Byrd.  The EEOC contends that Byrd’s discharge was because she refused the general manager’s unwelcome sexual advances and/or in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment to the corporate office.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Imperial Investments Greenville, Inc. and Imperial Investments Group, Inc., Civil Action No. 6:10-cv-02971-HFF -KFM) in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Byrd and a class of similarly situated women, as well as an injunction enjoining the companies from engaging in similar discrimination again and requiring other measures to ensure a workplace free of discrimination for future employees.

“Employers must maintain a workplace free from harassment,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “An employer who ignores sexual harassment in the workplace and does not take active measures to prevent it risks legal liability.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.