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PRESS RELEASE
3-20-09

EEOC OBTAINS $290,000 FOR FEMALE WORKERS WHO WERE SEXUALLY HARASSED BY MALE NURSE

First Street Surgical Center Settles Discrimination Lawsuit; Remedial Relief Included

HOUSTON – A Houston-area surgical center will pay $290,000 and provide significant remedial relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the federal agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that First Street Surgical Center, L.P. and First Surgical Partners, LLC subjected several female workers at their Bellaire, Texas, facility to a sexually hostile work environment and that First Street retaliated against women who complained about the unlawful conduct.

The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 4:08cv2894, filed in September 2008 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division) asserted that a male nurse, who eventually was promoted to a supervisory position, made unwanted sexual advances and sexual jokes and innuendos to female colleagues and subordinates. The EEOC said that women who rejected the advances or complained about harassment were then burdened with more difficult job assignments and had their work performance unfairly disparaged. A nurse who made a written complaint detailing acts of alleged sexual harassment by the supervisor was fired the following day. Another woman was given a poor evaluation because she complained about harassment.

“Employers must be vigilant in preventing and addressing discrimination or risk a lawsuit filed by the EEOC,” stated EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru.

The settlement terms, set forth in a consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge David Hittner, require First Street to pay $210,000 in relief to compensate three women who filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC. Additionally, $80,000 will be distributed among other current and former employees and contract workers who may have been subjected to sexual harassment or retaliation, and the male nurse whose actions provoked complaints will be permanently barred from working for First Street. The decree also requires other corrective actions, including the demotion of the director of nursing, the hiring of a human resources specialist, and training designed to prevent future acts of sexual harassment or retaliation.

EEOC Houston Regional Attorney Jim Sacher added, “The EEOC is pleased that this resolution will remedy past discrimination and prevent future wrongdoing. This case should remind employers that women should never have to endure sexual harassment and retaliation in order to earn a paycheck.”

In Fiscal Year 2008, 13,867 sexual harassment charges were filed with the EEOC and state or local agencies nationwide, an increase of 11% from the prior year.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.