Suit Charged That Interim Rector Subjected Women to Groping and Sexual Remarks
NEW YORK - Grace Episcopal Church of Whitestone, Inc., a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, will pay $192,500 to settle a sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC had charged that an interim rector at Grace Church in Whitestone, N.Y., subjected a secretary and a sexton to unwelcome advances, sexual remarks and touching, including grabbing their breasts and kissing them. The secretary was fired after she rebuffed the sexual advances, the EEOC's lawsuit said.
Sexual harassment and firing an employee for opposing harassment violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit, Civil Action No. 06-CV-05302, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $192,000 in damages to be paid to the two women, the three-year consent decree resolving the case includes injunctive relief prohibiting Grace Church and the diocese from engaging in sex harassment or retaliation; providing church and diocese employees and all churches within the diocese with copies of revised policies on sexual harassment; reporting sex harassment complaints received by Grace Church or the diocese to the EEOC; posting a notice about the EEOC and the lawsuit at the church; and anti-discrimination training for employees.
"All employers, whether private companies or religious institutions, should be aware that they have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment of their employees," said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry. "Employers must also make sure that they have multiple avenues for employees to complain about harassment and that those avenues of complaint are communicated to employees."
Konrad Batog, the EEOC's trial attorney assigned to the case, added, "Through this consent decree, Grace Church and the diocese have agreed to revise their sexual harassment policies to allow for different avenues of complaint and EEOC will monitor any complaints to help make sure that they are effectively resolved."
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 is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's website at http://www.eeoc.gov.