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PRESS RELEASE
9-30-10

East Hawaii Veterinary Center Sued By EEOC For Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

Co-Owner Responsible for Vulgar, Offensive Slurs to Female Staff, Federal Agency Charges

HONOLULU, Hawaii — East Hawaii Veterinary Center, LLC, a veterinary clinic in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, violated federal law by sexually harassing, firing and/or forcing out a class of female employees due to their gender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

Since 2005, at least six female employees, ranging from receptionists to a veterinarian, were subjected to extremely offensive, vulgar comments geared solely toward female staff by a co-owner of the clinic, according to the EEOC. On a near-daily basis, the co-owner insulted the women by calling them “worthless,” “whores” and other extremely vulgar epithets, and generally treated the women differently. The male staff was not subjected to such insults and hostile behavior.

Despite the company’s lack of an internal policy against discrimination, the EEOC asserts that one receptionist complained about the harassment to a different co-owner, who acknowledged that the behavior was inappropriate, yet took no action to stop it. Ultimately, the EEOC contends that the offending co-owner fired at least three of the victims and forced the others to quit.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii (EEOC v. East Hawaii Veterinary Center, LLC, Case No. CV 10-00559-BAE-LEK). The suit was filed after the EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the class, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination at the East Hawaii Veterinary Center.

“Supervisors and top managers have a higher duty to ensure a workplace free of hostility,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction over Hawaii. “Women have the right to work without the utter degradation displayed here, and the EEOC will fight to ensure that employers pay for such injustices.”

Timothy Riera, local director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office added, “It is important that owners and managers alike set the standard for a discrimination-free environment and ensure that employees are adequately trained to prevent, address and correct sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.”

Open since 2003, the East Hawaii Veterinary Center is a locally owned and operated clinic which provides medical and emergency services for small, avian and exotic animalson the Big Island of Hawaii, according to the company’s website.

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