Federal Agency Said Former Lead Dentist Subjected Employees to Unwanted Sexual Conduct, Including Groping and Vulgar Comments
DALLAS - Smile Brands of Texas, L.P., a Burleson, Texas dental practice that did business as Monarch Dental, will pay $175,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC's suit, brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (3:10-CV-1903-K), charged that Monarch Dental subjected employees Deanna Chaney and Jan Pawelek to a sexually hostile work environment. According to the EEOC, a male lead dentist began subjecting dental hygienist Deanna Chaney and dental assistant Jan Pawelek to unwanted sexual conduct shortly after they started working in the defendants' Burleson office. The EEOC contends that the harassment of Pawelek included unwanted sexual comments, touching her in a sexual manner and making sexual comments about female patients in her presence. According to the EEOC, Pawelek repeatedly told the dentist to stop his unwanted sexual behavior but he ignored her requests. The EEOC further alleged that Pawelek complained to management about the lead dentist's harassment, but the company failed to conduct a proper investigation and did not discipline the dentist.
Chaney was also subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct, according to the EEOC, as the dentist told her unsolicited sexual stories, directed unwanted sexual comments to her, touched her breast, attempted to kiss her and made sexual comments about female patients. According to the EEOC, Chaney also complained to management about the lead dentist's behavior, but no appropriate action was taken to ensure that the harassment ended. Chaney, unable to further endure the harassment, requested and was given a transfer to a different Monarch location in 2009. The dentist identified by the women as a harasser ceased to be employed by Monarch last month.
"My goal from the beginning was to have Monarch place importance on having a harassment-free work environment and to give employees a way to report harassment," said Chaney. "I am happy that this settlement will result in Monarch taking seriously complaints of sexual harassment made by employees."
Pawelek added, "I wish I had never experienced the harassment, but with this settlement, I have peace of mind knowing that Monarch Dental will have a better work environment for its female employees."
Under the settlement, which was filed by the court as a consent decree, the defendants have agreed to pay Chaney and Pawelek $175,000. The business will also undergo extensive corrective measures, including training managerial employees at six of their facilities to educate them regarding the law against sexual harassment and the proper procedures on investigations of complaints. The defendants have also agreed to post a notice to inform employees of their rights under the law.
"This was an outrageous case of sexual harassment in which an educated dental professional was enabled to abuse his power and subject his female employees to ongoing, unwanted, sexually vulgar comments and touches," said Senior Trial Attorney Devika Seth of the EEOC's Dallas District Office. "We hope that this settlement has achieved a measure of accountability by sending the message that a dismissive approach to reports of discrimination will not be tolerated, and that the EEOC will act to ensure compliance with the law."
Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office, added, "What happened at this particular location need not be expected at other facilities of the Smiles Brand corporation or Monarch network of offices. Surely this business understands the value of promoting 'preventative care' when it comes to establishing and maintaining a civilized workplace. Training and education through a positive resolution like this one can go a long way toward that objective."
The EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.