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PRESS RELEASE
7-19-12

Court Orders Hawaii HealthCare Professionals and Its Owner to Pay over $190,000 for Age Discrimination

Owner  Referred to Employee as a ‘Bag of Bones,’ Then Fired Her, Says EEOC

HONOLULU — Hawaii Healthcare  Professionals, Inc. – also known as Hawaii Professional HomeCare Services, Inc.  – and its owner have been ordered to pay $193,236 to a woman allegedly fired  due to her age, in a default judgment awarded by U.S. District Judge Alan C.  Kay in Hawaii, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  announced today.  The judgment resolves  an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC against the Honolulu-based home  health care services company in 2010. 

The company’s owner, Carolyn  Frutoz-De Harne, ordered the 2008 termination of Debra Moreno, a  then-54-year-old office coordinator at its Maui facility, according to the  EEOC.  The termination proceeded despite  reports by the facility’s manager, who actually hired and supervised Moreno,  that Moreno was a thorough and efficient worker.  Frutoz-De Harne allegedly ordered that Moreno  be fired after telling the manager that Moreno “looks old,” “sounds old on the  telephone,” and is “like a bag of bones.”   Frutoz-De Harne also allegedly told the manager that Moreno was not the  type of person she wanted representing her company, the EEOC said.  After the termination, the manager reported  the ageist comments to Moreno, who in turn filed a discrimination charge with  the EEOC.

 Following an investigation, the EEOC filed  suit against Hawaii Healthcare Professionals in U.S. District Court for the  District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Hawaii  Healthcare Professionals, Inc. a/k/a Hawaii Professional HomeCare Services,  Inc., Case No. CV-10-00549 BMK), and subsequently added Frutoz-De Harne as  a named defendant.  The EEOC charged that the  conduct was a form of age discrimination, which violates the Age Discrimination  in Employment Act (ADEA). 

In addition to the monetary award for  Moreno, the judgment also requires that the defendants prevent future age  discrimination and retaliation by developing  and disseminating procedures to address such claims and training all staff on  their rights with respect to age discrimination and retaliation, with  additional training for supervisors on how to deal with complaints.  The defendants also must retain an outside equal  employment opportunity (EEO) coordinator to assist with these efforts and post  a notice for employees regarding the judgment.   The EEOC will monitor compliance with the judgment.

“When I learned that my age was  the reason for the disparaging remarks and termination, I was embarrassed and  demoralized.  For me, it was the ultimate blow.  Age had never  before been a consideration for me,” said Moreno.  “The court's decision  makes me feel optimistic and vindicated.  I am really grateful that the  EEOC exists to help people like me.”

Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for  the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which oversees the agency’s litigation  in Hawaii, said, “Age should never be a factor when evaluating an employee or  job applicant’s worth.  What makes this  case especially appalling is the flagrant disregard for a worker’s abilities,  coupled with disparaging ageist remarks and thinking.  The EEOC will not tolerate such violations of  civil rights law and is pleased by the court’s decision.” 

Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local  Office, added, “Employers should ensure that equal opportunity is available for  all applicants and employees, regardless of age or any other legally protected  basis.  Employers should have a strong anti-discrimination  policy and offer training to reinforce the goal of equal opportunity and to  prevent future civil rights issues from arising.”

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