$79,000 Settlement in Sex Harassment and Retaliation Case, Training Ordered

Friday, May 6, 2011

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

Prestige Home Centers, Inc., an Ocala-based retailer of manufactured homes, will pay $79,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced. The EEOC had charged that Prestige, which operates 14 sales centers in north and central Florida, violated federal law when it subjected male employees to sexual harassment from a male supervisor, and then retaliated against one of them after he made complaints.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, several men who worked at Prestige’s Lake City, Fla., facility were subjected to humiliating abuse in the workplace on a daily basis based on their status as males. Specifically, the EEOC said, the harassment included inappropriate touching and groping of the men, requests for sexual favors, and sexually explicit and embarrassing comments.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Prestige Home Centers, Inc., 3:09-cv-00981-J-32JBT in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Employees should not be subjected to this type of harassing behavior in the modern workplace,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg. “Employers must act swiftly to correct hostile work environments and prevent employee exposure to such outrageous conduct and retaliation.”

EEOC Miami District Director Malcolm Medley said, “Inappropriate touching and lewd comments are perfect examples of the kind of misconduct which has no place at work. The law requires that the workplace be free from this type of blatant harassment and sexual innuendo for both men and women.”

In addition to the monetary damages, the three-year consent decree resolving the case includes injunctive relief enjoining the company from further permitting or engaging in sexual harassment or retaliation and requires Prestige to post a notice about the settlement; adopt new sexual harassment policies; implement a new sexual harassment committee; conduct anti-discrimination training; and report information about sex discrimination complaints it receives to the EEOC for monitoring.

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