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South Carolina Retirement Community Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Suit

Ashlan Village Fired Women for Complaining About Harassment, Federal Agency Charged

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Ashlan Village, Inc., doing business as Ashlan Village Retirement Community, a retirement and assisted living facility located in Lyman, S.C., will pay $40,000 and provide non-monetary relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC had charged in a lawsuit that from around September 2008 through around December 2008, Leah Pyhala, the marketing and activities director at Ashlan Village, was sexually harassed by her male supervisor, who was the facility's executive director. The lawsuit said the harassment included unwelcome e-mails with sexual content, sexual comments and unwelcome touching. Pyhala and a coworker, Holly Black, who was the facility's director of resident services, complained about the harassment to Ashlan Village's owner. The EEOC said that Pyhala and Black were then terminated on the same day by the executive director, shortly after they complained about the harassment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Ashlan Village, Inc. d/b/a Ashlan Village Retirement Community, Civ. No. 7:10-CV-02551 in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Spartanburg Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary damages, the consent decree resolving the lawsuit includes injunctive relief prohibiting the company from further discriminating on the basis of sex, and from engaging in retaliation for resisting or complaining about it. The decree also requires the redistribution of the company's sexual harassment policy and annual training on sexual harassment and retaliation for all managers, supervisors and employees. Finally, the company must report complaints of sexual harassment to the EEOC throughout the decree's term.

"Employers are required to prevent and correct sexual harassment in the workplace," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "Punishing employees who complain about harassment further violates federal law and only makes a bad situation worse. We are pleased that Ashlan Village has agreed to provide adequate training to its employees, and has committed to preventing harassment and retaliation in its workplace."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at