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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
12-6-11

Vet Pharm To Pay $65,000 To Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

South Dakota Animal Products Company Subjected Employee to Hostile Work Environment, Federal Agency Charged

SIOUX FALLS,  S.D. – A federal judge has approved a consent  decree resolving a sexual harassment lawsuit against Vet Pharm, Inc., a South Dakota animal  health products distributor, brought by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, between 2007 and 2008, a Vet Pharm employee told sexually explicit jokes and made highly  personalized sexual comments which demeaned and humiliated female  employees. Prior to filing its lawsuit,  the EEOC conducted an investigation that indicated that complaints were made to  a direct supervisor, who allegedly took no action to remedy the  harassment. Further, the investigation  showed that even after complaints were raised with upper management, the  company failed to stop the harasser’s conduct, which was so severe that one female  employee felt forced to quit her job, the EEOC said.

Sexual  harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit, which was  assigned to Judge Roberto Lange, in U.S. District Court for the District of  South Dakota (Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission and Highstrom-Neilan v. Vet Pharm, Inc., Civil  Action No. 11-4025), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation  settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree approved yesterday provides that Vet  Pharm will pay $65,000, to be divided between two female former employees who  worked at its Sioux Falls  facility. The consent decree applies to  Vet Pharm’s facilities in Iowa, South Dakota and Idaho. In addition to the monetary settlement, the  decree also contains an injunction preventing further sexual harassment, sex  discrimination or retaliation, as well as requirements that Vet Pharm provide  training to its employees; report to the EEOC regarding future complaints;  revise its sexual harassment policy and employee handbooks; and post a notice  for employees about the resolution of the suit.  The EEOC will monitor Vet Pharm’s compliance with the agreement for  three years.

“Employers have an obligation to ensure that the  workplace is free from sexual harassment,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional  attorney in Chicago. “Sexualized speech at work is abusive, and  women have a right to do their jobs without fearing abuse from their co-workers. When employers learn that sexual harassment  exists in their workplace, they must take effective steps to end the  harassment, and not just in the short term, but permanently.”

The agreement between the EEOC and Vet Pharm ending the  lawsuit resulted from an early, voluntary mediation conducted by U.S.  Magistrate Judge John E. Simko.

Jean Kamp, associate regional attorney for the EEOC’s  Chicago District, said, “The EEOC commends Vet Pharm for its willingness to  come to the table early in the case to try to reach a resolution.”

According to its website, www.vetpharminc.com, Vet Pharm is a  full-service animal health products distributor providing services to  veterinarians, with three locations in Iowa, South Dakota and Idaho.

Trial Attorney Jessica Palmer-Denig in the Minneapolis Area Office handled the EEOC’s  litigation against Vet Pharm under the management of the agency’s Chicago  District Office. The Chicago District  office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative  enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in North and South  Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee  and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces  federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is  available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.