Female Employee Sexually Harassed, Assaulted and Threatened by Supervisor, Federal Agency Charged
NEW ORLEANS - A Dallas/Fort Worth commercial janitorial service doing business in the New Orleans Metropolitan area violated federal law by creating a sexually hostile work environment and sexually assaulting a female employee, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a recently filed lawsuit. EEOC charged Complete Maintenance, Inc., with vicarious liability for the severe unlawful sexual harassment created by one of the company's supervisors.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, on Nov. 9, 2009, while cleaning the men's bathroom at a retail store serviced by the company, housekeeper Marciana Seren was sexually assaulted by her male supervisor. He threatened to kill members of Seren's family if she told anyone about the assault. The following day, Seren reported the assault, at which time a store manager contacted the sheriff's department. EEOC alleged that after the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office received the report and informed the company, Complete Maintenance allowed the accused supervisor to leave Louisiana on company business. The supervisor never returned to work for the company, the lawsuit said.
EEOC asserts that Complete Maintenance is vicariously liable for the supervisor's assault as he was Seren's supervisor. He had authority to hire and fire her and his actions were sufficiently severe to amount to actionable sexual harassment. Further, EEOC asserts that the company did not exercise reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the severely harassing behavior. Complete Maintenance had no written sexual harassment policy and no specifics were provided to employees regarding how to complain. Nevertheless, Seren immediately reported the assault and made efforts to avoid any future harm.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 2:15-4446) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. In its lawsuit, EEOC seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages to address the harm suffered by Seren. The agency also wants an injunction to ensure that Complete Maintenance develops effective policies to protect employees against harassment, and trains its employees about them.
"This action sends the message that EEOC will continue to prosecute employers who subject their employees to sexual harassment," said Keith T. Hill, acting district director of EEOC's Houston District Office. "Employers must make concerted efforts to prevent and promptly correct sexual harassment in the workplace."
Jim Sacher, regional attorney for the EEOC's New Orleans and Houston offices, said, "No one should have to suffer sexual assault at her workplace. EEOC will aggressively seek redress for the injuries suffered by Ms. Seren. We will urge the court to stop this defendant from exposing any other female employee to sexual assault."
Complete Maintenance, Inc. is a corporation domiciled in Texas which provides janitorial services for various businesses throughout the New Orleans Metropolitan Area.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the agency is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.