U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Executive Director Sexually Harassed Employee and Discharged Employees Who Complained About the Harassment, Agency Alleges
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today it has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Ashlan Village, Inc., doing business as Ashlan Village Retirement Community, for subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment at its facility in Lyman, S.C., and for firing two employees who complained about the sexual harassment.
According to the EEOC’s suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Ashlan Village, Inc., d/b/a Ashlan Village Retirement Community, Civil Action No. 7:10-cv-02551, in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Spartanburg Division), from around September 2008 through December 2008, Leah Pyhala who was the marketing director at the facility, w as sexually harassed by the male executive director who was her supervisor. The complaint alleges the harassment included unwelcome e-mails with sexual content, daily sexual comments, and unwelcome touching. The executive director made comments about Pyhala’s breasts and buttocks and suggested that he wanted to have sex with her through comments like “I have something for you . . .it’s eight and half inches long.”
Pyhala, and a coworker, Holly Black, complained to Ashlan Village’s owner regarding the harassment. Pyhala and Black were then terminated by the executive director because of the sexual harassment and the resulting complaints.
The EEOC filed its lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The complaint seeks back pay for the aggrieved employees, along with compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
“Employers must understand that Title VII prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, and when the harassment is committed by a direct supervisor, employers can be held strictly liable for the conduct,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The allegation that the harasser in this case fired the two employees who complained about his unacceptable workplace behavior is particularly alarming. The EEOC is committed to ending workplace harassment and retaliation, and will continue to pursue these types of cases in court to accomplish its goal.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.