Suit Cites Sexual Advances, Touching, Explicit Comments Followed by Threats
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Elks Lodge No. 954 in Jerseyville, Ill., violated federal law by sexually harassing three female bartenders and then taking reprisals against them when they complained, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
In its lawsuit (Case No. 3:09-cv-00200), filed in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois, the EEOC claims that Vicki Vickers, Elizabeth Stemm, and Jackie Davidson (formerly Jackie Atteberry at the time of her employment by defendant) were subjected to unlawful sexual harassment while working at Elks Lodge No. 954 by three members of the Elks’ board of trustees on numerous occasions in 2005 and 2006. The abuse, which the EEOC said was perpetrated by trustees Joe Ritter, Allen Dunham and Dennis Prough, included repeated unwelcome sexual advances and touching, and sexually explicit comments. The suit said that after victims complained about the conduct, their work hours were cut, they were assigned the least desirable shifts, and they were subjected to threats and other abusive verbal comments. Davidson was terminated and the environment became so hostile that Vickers was compelled to resign.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) or national origin, and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
“Employers have an absolute duty to prevent their employees from becoming the object of sexual abuse by people who are in a position of authority,” said James R. Neely, Jr., district director of the EEOC's St. Louis District Office. “Just because a woman is employed as a bartender does not mean she is open to sexual advances. Employers should adopt measures to prevent sexual harassment from occurring and when harassment does happen, management must take decisive and immediate action to stop it.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on disability, race, color, gender, (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, and retaliation. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.