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Press Release 10-23-2013

Southwest Virginia Community Health System to Pay $30,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

Troutdale Clinic Receptionist Abused by Patient, Federal Agency Charged

ROANOKE, Va. - Saltville, Va.-based Southwest Virginia Community Health System, Inc. (SVCHS) will pay $30,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC's suit alleged that Karen Ross, a female receptionist at SCVHS's Troutdale, Va., clinic, was sexually harassed by a male patient during her employment at the clinic. According to the EEOC's complaint, Ross complained to her supervisor about the patient's sexually harassing conduct, but no action was taken to stop the abuse. An employer is liable for acts of a non-employee if the employer knew about the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 7:12cv424) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Under the terms of the consent decree resolving the suit, SVCHS will pay $30,000 in monetary damages to Ross. The settlement also provides that SVCHS will conduct training for all employees on sexual harassment prevention; post a notice about the settlement; provide a copy of its sexual harassment policy to all employees; and report sexual harassment complaints to the EEOC.

"Women should never be forced to work in a sexually hostile work environment," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "Employers have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment not only by co-workers, but also by third parties, including patients and customers. Employers need to adopt measures to end sexual harassment that has been reported to the appropriate supervisor regardless of who is perpetrating the misconduct."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at