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Press Release 07-01-2010

Allstar Fitness Sued by EEOC for Sexual Harassment

Supervisor Forced Sex on Latina Employee, Federal Agency Charges

SEATTLE — Allstar Fitness, which operates fitness clubs in Washington and Oregon, violated federal law when its manager sexually harassed a female employee on multiple occasions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC's suit charged that the sexual harassment occurred at two different Allstar Fitness facilities in Seattle. According to the federal agency's investigation, the immediate supervisor of a Latina worker employed in housekeeping deliberately isolated her and forced her to have sex with him repeatedly. The supervisor warned the employee to stay quiet if she wanted to keep her job, the EEOC said. After months of abuse on a regular basis, when she told him "No more," and threatened to report the attacks, she was fired.

"Keeping my job meant more than anything to me," said the employee. "It meant being able to provide for my children and my mother. I didn't want to risk losing my job, and my supervisor took advantage of this; he used it against me."

Sexual harassment and termination as retaliation for speaking out about sexual harassment violate Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle ((EEOC V. Allstar Fitness, LLC., CV-10-1082) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages on behalf of the worker, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site, and other injunctive relief.

"No one should be forced to choose between personal dignity and the paycheck that feeds your family," said EEOC Seattle Field Office Director Luis Lucero. "By law, employers must protect their workers and take responsibility for the actions of their supervisors, but Allstar had no employee training, no written workplace policies, and no complaint procedure."

EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "Here, the supervisor abused his power and assumed that this woman's desperation and vulnerability would keep her silent. It is the EEOC's duty to champion her right – and the rights of all workers – to speak out, and to a workplace free from sexual harassment."

Noting that "the EEOC has seen an alarming rise in harassment cases involving egregious sexual assaults being committed against female workers, particularly those from immigrant communities," Tamayo cited recent examples. Last year in October 2009, EEOC filed a lawsuit against La Pianta L.C.C., which does business as Frenchman Hills Vineyard in Othello, Wash., alleging that a supervisor sexually assaulted a Latina worker. Also in June 2009, EEOC filed a lawsuit against Willamette Tree Wholesale, Inc. located in Molalla, Ore., alleging that Latina workers there were sexually harassed, threatened, and in one case, repeatedly raped. In 2008, in another case involving the rape of a female worker by her supervisor, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment on a jury verdict of more than $1,000,000 in favor of the EEOC and farm worker Olivia Tamayo (no relation to William Tamayo) in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Coalinga, Calif.-based Harris Farms.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at