Female Supervisor Subjected Harassed Female Employee to Unwanted Touching and Sexual Language, Federal Agency Charges
SEATTLE - Olympia, Wash.-based Koelsch Senior Communities, LLC, which provides assisted living and other care facilities for seniors, violated federal law by allowing a female supervisor to sexually harass a female employee, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Friday, September 28.
The EEOC's investigation found that from very early on, employee Rebecca Flores was made uncomfortable by the conduct of her female supervisor at The Hampton at Salmon Creek, a Koelsch assisted care facility in Vancouver, Wash. This included comments about Flores's clothing and appearance; a request to be friends on Facebook; repeatedly asking for foot massages; and discussions of the supervisor's interest in extramarital affairs and sexual bondage.
In particular, Flores was disturbed by an incident where her supervisor stood close behind her and expressed a desire to rub her buttocks. When Flores reported the unwelcome behavior to upper management, Koelsch failed to investigate properly and quickly sided with the supervisor, which emboldened the woman to continue harassing Flores with sexually charged comments and unwanted touching.
Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Koelsch Senior Communities, LLC, Case No. 3:18-cv-05792) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks compensatory damages for Flores and injunctive relief, which typically includes training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and compliance reporting.
"Whether committed by a female or male against someone who is the same sex or opposite sex, the law is very clear - employers must take action to stop and prevent sexual harassment," said EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko. She noted that sexual harassment prevention is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission's 2017-21 Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores (no relation to Rebecca Flores) added, "As we know all too well in the #MeToo era, employers who fail to investigate harassment allegations or make excuses for 'high-value' workers accused of harassment do so at their own peril. Employers who want to avoid such pitfalls should consult the checklists for employers compiled by the EEOC's Select Task Force on Workplace Harassment."
According to its website, http://koelschseniorcommunities.com, Koelsch operates senior care facilities at 34 locations in Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Illinois.
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