Female Supervisor Harassed Same-Sex Employee With Unwanted Touching and Sexual Language, Federal Agency Charges
SEATTLE - Olympia, Wash.-based Koelsch Senior Communities, as well as The Hampton at Salmon Creek, one of the memory care facilities operated by Koelsch, will pay $450,000 and adopt anti-discrimination policies and training to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a female employee faced unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature from her female supervisor at The Hampton at Salmon Creek facility. This included sexually charged comments, unwanted touching, repeated requests for foot rubs and discussions about intimate details about the supervisor's marriage, dating and sexual practices. When the employee 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 her subordinate.
Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit against both Koelsch and The Hampton facility (EEOC v. Koelsch Senior Communities, LLC and The Hampton at Salmon Creek, Case No. 3:18-cv-05792-BHS) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma. The employee, also represented by Scott Blankenship and Rick Goldsworthy of the Blankenship Law Firm, PLLC, intervened in the EEOC's lawsuit and asserted additional claims of retaliation and termination.
Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, the defendants will pay $450,000 in damages to the employee and train high-level managers employed by both entities, as well as employees of The Hampton facility, to prevent such misconduct in the future.
"The law requires employers to take action to stop sexual harassment, whether committed by a woman or a man, against someone who is the same or opposite sex," said EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko. "Employers may face a particular challenge when the harasser is a supervisor. The EEOC's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace identifies power disparity as a risk factor for harassment and recommends that workplace rules be applied uniformly. It's vital that employers conduct fair and impartial harassment investigations, without favoring a person due to his or her rank."
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores added, "In any workforce, it can be daunting to speak out when the harasser is the person with power and authority over you. It took courage for this employee to report her supervisor's conduct internally as well as to the EEOC. This settlement will provide training that will benefit this workplace."
According to its website, http://koelschseniorcommunities.com, Koelsch operates and manages about 40 care facilities in Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Illinois. The Hampton at Salmon Creek is one of the facilities operated and managed by Koelsch.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.