$65,000 Settlement in Sexual Harassment Suit Against Animal Health Products Distributor, Training Ordered

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

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

A federal judge has approved a consent  decree resolving a sexual harassment lawsuit against Vet Pharm, Inc., a South Dakota animal  health products distributor, brought by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s suit, between 2007 and 2008, a Vet Pharm employee told sexually explicit jokes and made highly  personalized sexual comments which demeaned and humiliated female  employees. Prior to filing its lawsuit,  the EEOC conducted an investigation that indicated that complaints were made to  a direct supervisor, who allegedly took no action to remedy the  harassment. Further, the investigation  showed that even after complaints were raised with upper management, the  company failed to stop the harasser’s conduct, which was so severe that one female  employee felt forced to quit her job, the EEOC said.

Sexual  harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit, which was  assigned to Judge Roberto Lange, in U.S. District Court for the District of  South Dakota (Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission and Highstrom-Neilan v. Vet Pharm, Inc., Civil  Action No. 11-4025), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation  settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree provides that Vet  Pharm will pay $65,000, to be divided between two female former employees who  worked at its Sioux Falls  facility. The consent decree applies to  Vet Pharm’s facilities in Iowa, South Dakota and Idaho. In addition to the monetary settlement, the  decree also contains an injunction preventing further sexual harassment, sex  discrimination or retaliation, as well as requirements that Vet Pharm provide  training to its employees; report to the EEOC regarding future complaints;  revise its sexual harassment policy and employee handbooks; and post a notice  for employees about the resolution of the suit.  The EEOC will monitor Vet Pharm’s compliance with the agreement for  three years.

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