Female Workers’ Complaints of Harassment Ignored, EEOC Alleged
SEATTLE – Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen, Wash., will pay $125,000 and provide training and other relief to settle a federal lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Grays Harbor failed to take appropriate action despite repeated complaints to upper level management that a supervising pharmacist was sexually harassing at least four pharmacy technicians. The agency’s investigation found that the supervisor made offensive sexual comments, inflicted details of his sex life and masturbation habits on the technicians, and showed explicit material from the internet to the women. He also was known to approach a woman from behind to whisper in her ear, block her pathway, and rub her back, legs, and arms, the agency said.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed this lawsuit (EEOC v. Grays Harbor Community Hospital, CV- 10-05616-BHS) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Washington, after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Bryne Moore and an attempt to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the hospital through conciliation.
In addition to paying the women $125,000, Grays Harbor Community Hospital agreed to a three-year consent decree, under which it must implement training on anti-discrimination laws and post a notice at the hospital concerning the settlement.
During settlement talks, the hospital had demanded that anyone receiving settlement funds sign a document releasing Grays Harbor from a range of liability claims beyond the EEOC’s sexual harassment lawsuit. Grays Harbor asked the court to intervene when the EEOC refused these terms. The court denied Gray Harbor’s request, ruling that EEOC is “the master of its own case.”
“The EEOC will not sign off on settlement terms that are unfair and overbroad. In the end, we reached an agreement that addresses the women harmed by sexual harassment in this case and that helps prevent future sexual harassment in that workplace,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo.
“Employers have a duty to promptly and effectively respond to complaints of sexual harassment. When employers fail to take such reports seriously, the EEOC will take action to make sure women are not treated this way in the workplace,” said Michael Baldonado, district director of the EEOC’s San Francisco office. “As a result of the settlement, Grays Harbor will train management and supervisors in harassment prevention and ensure that employees can report sexual harassment with confidence that their complaints won’t be ignored.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.