Housing Provider Allowed Harassment of Female Employees to Go Unchecked, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - HELP USA, Inc., a nationwide provider of housing and support services, will pay $150,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit for sexual harassment filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a supervisor at the company's Morris Avenue location in the Bronx regularly directed unwelcome sexual advances to female employees, made sexually offensive comments, and ogled women in the workplace. He also treated female subordinates in a verbally abusive manner, shouting at them and belittling them and their work. One employee's repeated complaints about the supervisor's conduct went unheeded for months. A manager responded to one such complaint dismissively, stating that the supervisor engaging in the harassment was just being "playful."
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination - including harassment - because of sex. Sex harassment may include conduct that is openly sexual in nature, such as overtly sexual or sexist comments or behavior. It may also include hostile or abusive treatment that is not overtly sexual in nature but is targeted at members of one sex. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. HELP USA, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-07598) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"The EEOC is committed to eradicating sexual harassment in the workplace," said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "We will continue to fight that kind of harmful misconduct everywhere we can."
Under the consent decree resolving the lawsuit, HELP USA will pay $150,000 in damages to the harassment victims. It also requires HELP USA to maintain and distribute anti-discrimination policies to employees and to provide training to all employees at its Morris Avenue location. Additionally, any complaints of Title VII discrimination made by HELP USA employees, such as harassment complaints, will be reported to the EEOC.
Kevin Berry, Director of the EEOC's New York District Office, said, "Federal law clearly prohibits sexual harassment. The EEOC will continue to ensure that employers take this kind of abuse seriously -- and employee complaints about it."
The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
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.