$85,000 Award in Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Case, Training Ordered

Monday, March 28, 2011

Question:  Would sexual harassment training have prevented this case?  See our trainings at http://www.hrclassroom.com.

A historic inn and spa in Berkeley Springs will pay $85,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a federal sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

The EEOC charged that 5042 Holdings Limited, doing business as The Country Inn at Berkeley Springs, permitted Candace Bland, a housekeeper, and a class of female staff members employed in the kitchen/restaurant to be sexually harassed by male employees. Two of the victims were 18-year-old high school students at the time of the harassment. The EEOC alleged that the rampant sexual harassment included male employees engaging in offensive and unwelcome touching and groping of female employees, repeatedly requesting dates and using crude, sexually explicit language towards the female workers. One male employee even exposed himself to employees in the workplace, the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Bland and other women complained to the owner and management, but the employer failed to stop the harassment and instead unlawfully reduced the working hours of women who had complained to punish them.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who opposes sexual harassment or discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of West Virginia, Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-61, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $85,000 in monetary relief to Bland and the other class members, the five-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins The Country Inn from engaging in any further discrimination or harassment based on sex or retaliation for complaining about it. The decree mandates that The Country Inn will revise and disseminate policies prohibiting harassment and retaliation and must set up procedures for promptly investigating and addressing such misconduct. The company must also provide anti-discrimination training, post a notice on the settlement and report to the EEOC about the company’s response to any complaints of alleged sexual or retaliatory harassment or discrimination.

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