$140,000 Settlement in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Terminix and ServiceMaster, Training Ordered

Thursday, July 14, 2011

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

Major exterminating company Terminix and its parent company, ServiceMaster, will pay $140,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced. The EEOC had charged that two female employees at a Terminix facility in Salt Lake City were repeatedly sexually harassed by a supervisor.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that other supervisors were aware of the misconduct but failed to address it. The allegations included claims that the victims’ supervisor suggested to the female employees that they not wear tops to work, wear nothing but Vaseline to work and should be strippers so they could give him a lap dance. The harasser’s supervisor was also aware of the sexual harassment, the EEOC said, but failed to report or correct it.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Employers have a responsibility to take appropriate action when they learn of sexual harassment in the workplace, to both remedy the harassment that already has occurred and to prevent future harassment,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary O’Neill. “No employee should ever be subjected to this kind of abuse. Every employee should know that they do not have to put up with any type of discrimination – period – in order to work. I am pleased that this employer stepped up and settled this case early in the litigation process.” 

In addition to monetary relief, the 36-month consent decree settling the suit requires Terminix and ServiceMaster to review, revise, post and disseminate their anti-discrimination policies and procedures; and provide training on sexual harassment and retaliation to all employees and managers at the Terminix branch locations in Utah. The decree further requires Terminix to post a notice in the workplace explaining Title VII, employee rights and employer obligations under the statute, and to promptly and appropriately respond to all complaints of sex discrimination and/or retaliation.

EEOC Trial Attorney Richard Sexton, who handled the case, said, “Employers should be on notice that merely having anti-harassment policies is not sufficient to avoid Title VII liability. Employers must be committed to a workplace free of sexual harassment, which may be demonstrated by appropriate training, policies, and enforcement of those policies.”

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