Federal Agency Says Westmont Senior Residence Fired Employee for Complaining About Sexual Hostile Work Environment
CHICAGO - A Westmont, Ill., senior living center violated federal law by retaliating against an employee for complaining about sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday.
According to John P. Rowe, the EEOC's Chicago District director who supervised the agency's pre-suit investigation, the investigation revealed that line cook Peter Masnyk complained repeatedly to management about sexual harassment in the workplace. The company later fired Masnyk as retaliation for his complaints, Rowe said.
"Cordia said it had other reasons for terminating the charging party, but the facts suggested to us that he would not have been fired but for his complaining about the harassment," Rowe said.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Cordia Senior Living, N.D. Illinois No. 13-cv-6480) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case was assigned to Judge Marvin E. Aspen. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction prohibiting retaliation.
John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago, said, "Too often management's first line of defense to complaints of sexual harassment is to get rid of the person doing the complaining and hope the complaints can't be sustained. But smart managers know that those who complain don't have to be right. They just have to have a reasonable good faith belief that discrimination is going on. If the complainer does have that belief, then firing them is retaliation. That's unlawful, and the EEOC will combat it."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.