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PRESS RELEASE
3-12-15

Yuma-Area Health Center Sued by EEOC for Retaliation

Regional Center for Border Health Fired Employee Because She Complained About Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Charges

SOMERTON, Ariz. - The Regional Center for Border Health, Inc., a Yuma-area health center, violated federal law by firing an employee after she complained about sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC's suit, Regional Center hired Mayra Casillas in May 2011 as a program assistant/case manager.  In June 2011, Casillas's supervisor struck her on the buttocks on two different occasions.  A few days later, Casillas reported to human resources that this intimate physical contact was harassing her and made her uncomfortable.  On or about June 20, Casillas made a formal report in writing to the Regional Center, again stating that her supervisor's touching of Casillas's buttocks make her feel uncomfortable.  On the same day, Regional Center fired Casillas.  The health center stated it terminated Casillas's employment because of her "incompatibility" with her supervisor, which it claimed was "interfering with a positive working environment…."  The EEOC argues that the alleged "incompatibility" was due to Casillas's complaint about the harassment and that the Regional Center actually fired Casillas because those complaints.  

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about conduct they reasonably believe to be sexual harassment.  The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Regional Center for Border Health, Inc., 2:15-cv-00436-BSB, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages.  The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief, including training on Title VII and other relief to prevent further discriminatory practices. 

"Retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination or harassment will not be tolerated," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill.  "It sends the wrong message to people who try to stop discrimination and harassment."  

EEOC District Director Rayford O. Irvin added, "Unfortunately, charges of retaliation continue to be a large part of our overall case docket; over 45% of all of our charges allege retaliation.  We will continue to send the message to all employers in every part of our district that they must not harm people who exercise their rights under federal law to be free from discrimination."

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).  Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.