Nation’s Largest Laser Hair Removal Company Allowed Harassment of Female Staff in Fresno and Fired Manager Who Complained, Federal Agency Charged
FRESNO, Calif. – American Laser Centers (ALC), the largest laser hair removal company in the U.S., will pay $125,000 and furnish other relief to settle claims of sexual harassment and retaliation at its site in Fresno, Calif., resolving a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the original lawsuit, female staff at the company’s clinic in Fresno charged that they were sexually harassed since at least 2006 by the landlord for the facility in question. The women, including a clinic manager, faced frequent harassment which included leering, unwelcome touching, sexual advances and appearances in their work area by the visibly aroused landlord The harassment got to the point where one female employee felt compelled to bring her brother to work as a measure of protection.
The clinic manager and others reported the harassment to ALC district management in 2006, expressing fear of working with the landlord. The women’s fears were met with a superficial internal investigation with no finding of wrongdoing on the part the landlord and continued exposure to their feared harasser. The female clinic manager was fired just a week and a half after reporting the misconduct.
The EEOC originally filed suit in January 2010 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (EEOC v. American Laser Centers LLC, Case No. 1:09-CV-02247-AWI-DLB), arguing that the company’s failure to appropriately address the harassment of all the women, and the retaliatory discharge suffered by the manager who complained, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also prohibits employers from permitting third parties to harass their employees. A three-year consent decree reached by both parties effectively settles the suit for $125,000 in backpay and compensatory damages for distress suffered by the four female targets.
The consent decree also calls for injunctive relief to correct and prevent future instances of harassment, discrimination and retaliation at American Laser Center clinics in and around the company’s bay area region, which encompasses Fresno, Calif. Requirements include implementing anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies and complaint procedures; annual compliance training for staff; designation of an internal EEO officer; holding managers accountable for engaging in such misconduct; posting an EEOC notice on the matter; and, reports on the handling of such complaints to the EEOC.
“We encourage employers to be vigilant about addressing complaints of harassment by third parties as well as employees,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Fresno in its jurisdiction. “Proactive action is important to prevent liability.”
Melissa Barrios, director of the EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, added, “Workers absolutely have the legal right to report harassment or discrimination suffered at work without repercussion. Employers who encourage such open communication can tackle civil rights abuses earlier on, thereby creating a more harmonious workplace and minimizing liability.”
According to its website, American Laser Centers is the nation’s largest and leading provider of laser-based skincare services, including laser hair removal, cellulite reduction and skin rejuvenation treatments. The company began operations in 2002 and currently operates over 150 clinics nationwide.
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.