Hospital Worker Complaints Ignored Despite Years of Sexual Propositions, Touching And Obscene Comments About Minors, EEOC Charged
LOS ANGELES — The Garfield Medical Center, an acute care facility in Monterey Park, Calif., will pay $530,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging the sexual harassment of its staff, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. According to the federal agency, several of the female targets of the harassment were either retaliated against or compelled to quit after their complaints were ignored by hospital management.
The EEOC said that from 2007 the hospital allowed a male emergency room admitting representative to harass a class of female employees by subjecting them to inappropriate touching, propositions for sex, graphic discussions of sexual activities, obscene pictures and comments regarding female body parts, including those of underage patients. One employee was terminated upon reporting the harassment, while others were compelled to quit rather than endure the hostile work environment. Despite complaints to hospital management, the offending employee was not terminated until 2009, more than two years after the initial complaints were lodged.
The EEOC originally filed suit against the hospital in August 2010 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. AHMC Garfield Medical Center dba Garfield Medical Center, Inc., Case No. 10-CV-06179-GHF[FMOx]). As part of the settlement, Garfield Medical Center entered into a three-year consent decree providing for the monetary relief for at least ten named victims along with sweeping injunctive relief designed to prevent and appropriately deal with future instances of harassment. Of the settlement amount, $100,000 will be set aside as a class fund for victims who have yet to be identified. The consent decree also requires that Garfield maintain a toll-free complaint hotline; retain a consultant to monitor and track complaints; provide anti-harassment and anti-retaliation training for all staff; and report compliance efforts to the EEOC.
“In order to be productive, employees deserve a workplace free from sexual comments, repeated propositions and inappropriate touching,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “We commend Garfield for agreeing to sweeping injunctive relief remedies to ensure this does not happen again. The EEOC is committed to remedying any disregard for the well-being and civil rights of workers.”
Olophius Perry, district director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “Employers who ignore signs of harassment in the workplace ultimately pay the price. The problem usually escalates over time, causing greater potential liability for employers and a demoralized staff.”
According to its website, Garfield Medical Center employs over 1,300 people, treating over 50,000 patients annually in Monterey Park.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.