Female Patient Advocate Was Subjected to Sexual Harassment by Female Supervisor, Retaliated Against for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged
AUSTIN, Texas - SelectCare Benefits Network, Inc., an Austin-based broker of medications for disadvantaged people, violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment and then retaliating against her after she complained, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a female employee who worked as a patient advocate in SelectCare's marketing department was subjected to sexual harassment on an almost daily basis throughout her employment by a woman who was her direct supervisor. This manager engaged in misconduct such as frequently grabbing, poking and/or touching her breasts, buttocks and thighs in plain view of co-workers and the company's directors, the EEOC said. The woman was referred to as "bitch" and "slut" by the supervisor almost every day at work, the agency charged.
In addition, the EEOC asserted that the employee was retaliated against for reporting the harassment to other managers, one of whom was the harasser's husband. The company gave her outdated leads which reduced the number of calls directed to her, severely limiting her ability to make sales, and deducted chargebacks from her salary. SelectCare also reassigned her to a desk in front of her harasser's office. Finally, the employee was compelled to quit her job rather than endure the severely hostile work environment.
Such alleged harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. SelectCare Benefits Network, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-527) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay for the harassment victim as well as compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.
"No one should have to come to work every day feeling anxiety about whether she will be subjected to a sexually charged atmosphere of offensive verbal and physical misconduct," said Patrick Connor, a trial attorney in the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office. "Punishing the employee for reporting the abuse only makes a bad situation worse."
Judith G. Taylor, supervisory trial attorney of the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office, added, "Employers are required by federal law to keep their workplaces free of sexual harassment and to remedy such conduct when it occurs. The EEOC will not hesitate to act when there is such a blatant failure to take any action when employees report abuse - and especially when the employer retaliates against the victim rather than fixing the problem."
SelectCare employs around 90 people who help disadvantaged patients obtain free or low-cost medications directly from pharmaceutical companies.
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.