The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Company Subjected Class of Women to Sexual Harassment and Then Fired Them After They Complained, Agency Charged

BALTIMORE – A Maryland athletic club will pay $161,000 and furnish other substantial relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to EEOC’s suit, (1:08:00518-CCB, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division), BVP, LLC and N.F.A.C., Inc., doing business as Big Vanilla Pasadena and Big Vanilla Athletic Club, violated federal law by sexually harassing several female employees at the company’s Pasadena and Arnold, Md., locations. The EEOC said Joella Hopkins, Melissa Mendez, Michelle Cabral and Dawn Wooden were subjected to repeated and unwanted sexually offensive remarks and sexual advances. Further, the EEOC charged that Hopkins, Cabral and Wooden were fired in retaliation for their complaints about the discrimination.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

In addition to the monetary relief to the women, the three-year decree settling the suit enjoins Big Vanilla Pasadena and Big Vanilla Athletic Club from engaging in harassment on the basis of sex and from retaliating against employees who complain about it. The employer agreed to monitoring by the EEOC, to train its current and future managers on anti-discrimination laws, and to post notices stating its commitment to maintaining an environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation.

“Employers have a responsibility to maintain an environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation, which are clearly and simply illegal,” said EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “This settlement achieves the EEOC’s objectives by providing appropriate relief to the victims while implementing measures to prevent this kind of misconduct in the future.”

According to its web site (, “Big Vanilla Athletic Club is the premier fitness facility in Anne Arundel County, offering you a wide variety of fitness, wellness and recreation opportunities in the future.”

In fiscal year 2007, retaliation charges surged 18% to a record high level of 26,663, making retaliation the second-highest charge category (behind race) for the first time ever. Additionally, sexual harassment filings increased for the first time since fiscal year 2000, numbering 12,510 – a 4 percent increase from the prior fiscal year. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site

This page was last modified on February 27 2009.

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