Female Employees Subjected to Egregious Sexual Harassment and One Fired for Her Opposition and Reporting, Federal Agency Charges
MIAMI - Vacation Resorts International (VRI), a provider of management and marketing services to resorts, condominiums, and timeshares, violated federal law when it permitted a manager at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort (which VRI manages) to sexually harass a groundskeeping / housekeeping employee, Katrina Archer, and other female employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Sept. 30. EEOC also charged VRI with unlawfully firing Archer when she resisted and reported the harassment.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, a male manager subjected Archer to repeated and egregious sexual harassment, including grabbing her breasts, exposing his penis to her, attempting to pull her onto his lap, and repeatedly propositioning her for sex. The male manager also touched other female employees without their consent and made inappropriate comments about their bodies.
Archer repeatedly complained to the harassing manager's supervisor, who also witnessed some of the harassment herself. Nevertheless, EEOC alleges, nothing was done to stop the harassment. As the harassment worsened, Archer even threatened to complain to the harasser's second-level supervisor and to his wife. Shortly thereafter, Archer was fired.
Both sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit against VRI in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division (EEOC v. Vacation Resorts Int'l, Case No. 0:15-cv-62061, S.D. Fla.) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement though its conciliation process. The suit seeks back pay, front pay and/or reinstatement, compensatory damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief.
"No employee should be required to endure sexually degrading, abusive conduct as a condition of employment," said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for EEOC's Miami District Office. "And employees who report and oppose such conduct should be lauded as heroes, not punished. This lawsuit seeks to protect the civil rights of an important but vulnerable segment of Florida's labor force - the hospitality worker."
EEOC Miami District Office Director Ozzie Black added, "EEOC has a significant law enforcement duty to protect all members of the workforce. Constant vigilance is as much a part of our mission today as it was 50 years ago, when the agency began."
VRI is a subsidiary of publicly traded Interval Leisure Group.
Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers, who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan. These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment, and human trafficking.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office's jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Further information can be found at www.eeoc.gov.