Black Female Caregiver Harassed Daily by 80-Year-Old Client, and Punished for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges
SAN FRANCISCO - An Alameda County-based senior care provider violated federal law when it ignored sexual and racial harassment by an elderly client and instead retaliated against one of the caregivers who reported the conduct, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.
According to the EEOC's suit, R. MacArthur Corporation, a franchisee of Home Instead Senior Care, failed to respond to employees' reports of harassment while providing in home assistance to an 80-year-old client in Alameda, Calif. The civil rights agency found that Rashon Sturdivant, an experienced care provider, faced daily harassment, including racially offensive remarks about "brown sugar" and "black butts," requests to perform sexual acts, and lewd comments about her body. The client also masturbated in front of her and groped her when she performed routine tasks like helping him sit up in bed or cleaning him. Although Sturdivant and other care providers informed R. MacArthur of his conduct, the EEOC charges that the employer failed to act on these complaints and also retaliated against Sturdivant by refusing to reassign her to another client.
Harassment based on sex and race, as well as retaliation against employees who speak out against such conduct in the workplace, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. R. MacArthur Corp. d/b/a/ Home Instead Senior Care, Civil Number 4:17-CV-04188-DMR) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit seeks back pay and other monetary losses, compensatory and punitive damages for Sturdivant and other care providers, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent any future discrimination.
"The customer is not always right," said EEOC San Francisco District Director William R. Tamayo. "The law requires employers to ensure that workers are protected from sexual harassment, even when that workplace is non-traditional, like a client's home, and even when the alleged harasser is a customer or client. Like farmworkers and janitorial workers, in-home caregivers can be particularly vulnerable to harassment, and it is one of the EEOC's top priorities to defend vulnerable workers against discrimination."
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Raymond T. Cheung added, "The senior-care industry represents one of the fastest-growing employers in the United States, with the nation's changing age demographics and the increasing health care and assistance needs of the baby boomer generation. These care providers are particularly vulnerable because they must go alone to the homes of clients, away from the support of a care facility. It is important for the EEOC to send a message to the industry that their employees need to be protected from abusive behavior."
A franchisee of Home Instead Senior Care www.homeinstead.com, which has over 600 franchisees within the United States, R. MacArthur Corp. provides in-home care to seniors within Alameda County. Home health aides (in-home care providers) have been projected to be the fourth-fastest-growing occupation in the United States between 2014 and 2024, with a projected estimate of 350,000 new jobs by 2024 (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm).
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.