Squaw Creek Resort Failed to Remedy Co-Worker Sexual Harassment
LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Destination Resorts & Hotels, a nationwide property management company, violated federal law when it failed to effectively address co-worker sexual harassment at The Resort at Squaw Creek, a ski resort near Lake Tahoe at the site of the Olympic Village that the company manages, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a federal lawsuit it filed today. Further, the agency alleged, the company unlawfully retaliated against the employee who reported the problem.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Shira Garfinkel faced sexual harassment by a male co-worker while working as a banquet server and bartender for The Resort at Squaw Creek from December 2005 to July 2007. This included persistent requests to have a relationship and unwelcome touching and, after Garfinkel rejected his advances, the harassment escalated to open hostility, threats and breaking into her home, the EEOC said. Although Garfinkel asked to be scheduled to work away from the harasser, the EEOC’s investigation showed the employer’s efforts were at best haphazard and failed to remedy the situation. Only after Garfinkel made repeated complaints to management and obtained a restraining order in court did the company finally implement steps to separate Garfinkel and her co-worker. It did this by assigning Garfinkel to another location with a loss in hours and seniority, while the harasser kept his position with no changes in seniority or benefits, the EEOC said.
“Even after the harasser threatened me and broke into my house, my employer did not take it seriously,” said Garfinkel. “I kept begging the company to do something to protect me. Instead of taking action against the harasser, I was the one who suffered consequences. I felt punished for speaking out.”
Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment as well as retaliation against an employee for reporting it. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Destination Resorts & Hotels, Inc., Civ. No. CV11-4816-MEJ) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of Garfinkel, training on anti-discrimination laws and other steps to prevent future discrimination.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from harassment, whether by a supervisor or co-worker or even a non-employee. They cannot safely ignore actions simply because they take place off company premises or after hours. The courts have found that harassment both in and outside the workplace can combine to create a hostile environment.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado observed, “It’s important to respond to reports of harassment in a timely and appropriate way. If you need to separate employees, make sure the employee who spoke out doesn’t face negative consequences. A transfer with loss of hours or difficult commute can be construed as retaliatory and is illegal.”
Baldonado noted that more than a third of all charges seen by the EEOC involve retaliation, and that, for the first time ever, retaliation under all statutes (36,258) surpassed race (35,890) as the most frequently filed charge at the EEOC in fiscal year 2010.
According to company information, Destination Resorts & Hotels, Inc. is a nationwide hotel/condominium property management corporation with over $2.2 billion in assets under management.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.