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Sexual Harassment Victim Unlawfully Forced To Quit EEOC Discrimination Lawsuit Alleges

Angry unhappy Asian secretary woman looking hand's boss touching her shoulder in workplace. Sexual harassment in office

Having represented sexual harassment victims for more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment lawyers know many employers fail to take action to protect sexual harassment victims from known sexual harassment. In far too many cases, our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment attorneys have learned, sexual harassment victims are forced to quit in order to escape a sexually hostile work environment. In this article, our Marion County, sexual harassment lawyers explain how a sexual harassment lawsuit recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates that sexual harassment victims who are forced to quit because of ongoing sexual harassment have a remedy under federal employment discrimination law.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

In a press release issued on October 10, 2021, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree resolving a sexual harassment lawsuit against Hannah’s Inc. and Hannah’s Pet Hospitals, Inc. (HPH). On September 29, 2020, the EEOC filed the sexual harassment lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Hannah’s Inc. and Hannah’s Pet Hospitals, Inc.,  Case No. 3:20-cv-01688, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon after initially attempting to address the alleged sexual hostile work environment through its lawfully mandated conciliation process. Unable to reach an acceptable conciliation agreement, the EEOC moved forward with seeking to address the alleged unlawful employment practices through litigation. In the Consent Decree, which was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Karin J. Immergut on October 8, 2021, HPH agreed to pay $43,000 to resolve the sexual harassment lawsuit.

The EEOC filed the sexual harassment lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of HPH, a woman named Willett. Under Title VII, employees are protected from sexual harassment which has the purpose or effect of altering the conditions of the victim’s employment and creating a hostile work environment.

Sexual Harassment Victims’ Rights

Under Title VII, employers are obligated to take prompt and effective remedial action when they know or should know an employee is being subjected to sexually harassing behavior in the workplace. When an employer fails to take corrective action, or the corrective action does not stop the sexually harassing behavior from continuing, the employer is liable under Title VII for creating and maintaining a sexually hostile work environment.

An employer’s failure to take prompt and effective remedial action to stop known sexual harassment also gives rise to a constructive discharge claim under Title VII when the sexual harassment victim is forced to involuntarily quit in order to escape the hostile work environment. By forcing the sexual harassment victim to involuntarily, the employer has, in effect, terminated the sexual harassment victim’s employment because of its failure to take prompt and effective remedial action. When a sexual harassment victim is constructively discharged, she is entitled to recover lost wages from the employer just as if the employer had terminated her employment.

The EEOC claims that HPH violated Title VII by requiring Willett to work in a sexually hostile environment. The EEOC further claims that HPH violated Title VII by constructively discharging Willett because its failure to stop the sexual harassment forced Willett to quit in order to escape the abusive work environment.

Worker Alleges Hostile Work Environment

HPH, which is based in Portland, Oregon, provides veterinary services. Willett was employed by HPH as a Pet Nurse from November 2017 until June 2018. During her employment, according to the EEOC, Willett was subjected to unwanted sexually harassing behavior from HPH’s Chief of Staff. The Chief of Staff’s unwelcome sexually harassing behavior towards Willett included comments of a sexual nature, such as asking her what sounds came from her bedroom when her boyfriend was over and telling her that she did not need to wear a bra because she had “nothing there.” The EEOC further alleges that the Chief of Staff made on-going, sexist remarks denigrating women, such as “shut up woman” and “stupid woman. The Chief of Staff also referred to women as “whores.”

In December 2017, Willett complained to her immediate supervisor about the unwanted sexually harassing behavior from the Chief of Staff. The EEOC maintains that HPH “failed to investigate or remedy the hostile work environment.” In January 2018, Willett confronted the Chief of Staff directly and objected to his sexual harassment. When the Chief of Staff continued to sexually harass her, Willett complained to Human Resources in April 2018. The EEOC alleges that HPH “conducted a cursory, inadequate investigation of Willett’s sexual harassment complaints, and the harassment continued.” “Left with no reasonable alternative because of the Chief of Staff’s ongoing harassment,” the EEOC contends that Willett was forced to resign her employment on June 2, 2018, in order to escape the sexually hostile working environment.

Fighting For Sexual Harassment Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States charged with interpreting and enforcing federal employment discrimination law. In order to protect sexual harassment victims, the EEOC is authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits against employers who have created and maintained a sexually hostile work environment. In a press release issued on October 20, 2021, regarding the case, the Acting Director of the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office, Nancy Sienko, explained that “sexual harassment continues to be a serious workplace problem.” “It is critical” Ms. Sienko observed, that “employers train managers and employees to recognize that no one in the organization is above the law, and that sexual harassment absolutely will not be tolerated.”

Consult With Ocala, FL Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of sexual harassment victims. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or have questions about your rights as a sexual harassment victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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