Cardiology Practice Fired Employee Who Complained About Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
PITTSBURGH – A Washington, Pa.-based cardiology practice will pay $125,000 and provide significant remedial relief to settle a federal sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the lawsuit, three cardiologists, who were owners, shareholders or officers of the medical practice, subjected a registered nurse, Moncel Deitz, and two other female employees to a sexually hostile work environment. The doctors repeatedly made sexually offensive and debasing comments to Deitz and other female employees. The harassment also included being forced to look at sexually explicit pictures and messages on a cell phone, the EEOC said.
The EEOC also charged that after Deitz and other employees complained about the harassment to the harassers and to other owners/shareholders of the practice, the medical practice terminated Deitz in retaliation for her opposition to the sexual harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful to sexually harass an employee and to retaliate against someone who complains about employment discrimination. The EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process before filing suit against Bryan C. Donohue, M.D., doing business as Donohue Cardiology Associates, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action 09-1280.
In addition to the $125,000 in monetary relief to Deitz and two other women, the three-and-one-half-year consent decree resolving the case enjoins Donohue Cardiology Associates and its owners from creating a sexually hostile work environment or engaging in unlawful retaliation in the future. The medical practice must make sure that owners, managers and supervisors actively monitor the workplace to ensure there is no sexual harassment or retaliation, and promptly report any incidents. The medical practice is required to investigate promptly all such complaints, including hiring an equal employment opportunity or human resources consultant to conduct the investigation. Donohue Cardiology Associates will report to the EEOC on how it addressed any harassment or retaliation complaints, provide training and post a notice regarding the settlement.
“This case shows that firing an employee because she complained about sexual harassment not only makes a bad situation worse, it is also illegal,” said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.
Debra M. Lawrence, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio, added, “If the owners or officers of a business engage in unlawful harassment, the law imposes automatic liability for that conduct. We are pleased that the federal court acknowledged this important point of law in an earlier ruling in this case, and that it approved the parties’ negotiated consent decree, which is designed to protect all employees at the medical practice from unlawful harassment and retaliation.”
According to its web site, http://donohuecardiology.org, Donohue Cardiology Associates has five offices in Pennsylvania.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.