Female Employees, Including Teens, Were Sexually Harassed, Federal Agency Charged
BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.V. – A historic inn and spa in Berkeley Springs will pay $85,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a federal sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
The EEOC charged that 5042 Holdings Limited, doing business as The Country Inn at Berkeley Springs, permitted Candace Bland, a housekeeper, and a class of female staff members employed in the kitchen/restaurant to be sexually harassed by male employees. Two of the victims were 18-year-old high school students at the time of the harassment. The EEOC alleged that the rampant sexual harassment included male employees engaging in offensive and unwelcome touching and groping of female employees, repeatedly requesting dates and using crude, sexually explicit language towards the female workers. One male employee even exposed himself to employees in the workplace, the EEOC said.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Bland and other women complained to the owner and management, but the employer failed to stop the harassment and instead unlawfully reduced the working hours of women who had complained to punish them.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who opposes sexual harassment or discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of West Virginia, Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-61, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $85,000 in monetary relief to Bland and the other class members, the five-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins The Country Inn from engaging in any further discrimination or harassment based on sex or retaliation for complaining about it. The decree mandates that The Country Inn will revise and disseminate policies prohibiting harassment and retaliation and must set up procedures for promptly investigating and addressing such misconduct. The company must also provide anti-discrimination training, post a notice on the settlement and report to the EEOC about the company’s response to any complaints of alleged sexual or retaliatory harassment or discrimination.
“Sexual harassment of employees in the hospitality industry continues to be a serious problem,” said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “Employers exacerbate the problem, and increase their potential legal liability, if they retaliate against women who complain about harassment instead of punishing the harassers.”
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence added, “We are pleased that The Country Inn worked with the EEOC to resolve this lawsuit. The consent decree includes significant measures that will benefit all the company’s employees.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.