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Press Release 09-06-2012

Southwest Virginia Community Health System Sued for Sexual Harassment

Troutdale Clinic Receptionist Sexually Harassed by Patient, Federal Agency Says

ROANOKE, Va. - Southwest Virginia Community Health System, Inc. violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.   Southwest Virginia Community Health System consists of a group of eight non-profit community healthcare centers throughout the Southwest Virginia region.  The EEOC said that the misconduct occurred at a healthcare facility in Troutdale, Va.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Karen Ross, who worked as a receptionist at the facility, was subjected to sexual harassment by a male patient from around April 2009 through Dec. 9 of that year, and again from around June 8 through Sept. 15, 2010.  The suit alleges that the harassment included unwelcome sexual comments, such as the patient inviting Ross to "run away with" him, telling Ross that he was "visualizing [her] naked," and suggesting that Ross have sex with him.  The suit further alleges that the comments were made both in person, when the patient visited the facility where Ross worked, and by telephone when the patient called in to the facility.  The EEOC said that Ross complained to her supervisor about the patient's sexual harassment, but the supervisor did nothing to stop the abusive conduct.  

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Southwest Virginia Community Health System, Inc., Civil Action No. 7:12cv424), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.  The EEOC seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages for Ross, as well as injunctive relief.

"Once an employer is put on notice that any of its employees are being subjected to sexual harassment, it must take prompt corrective action to stop it," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC's Charlotte District Office, whose jurisdiction includes the state of Virginia.  "This is true regardless of whether the harasser is a co-worker, her supervisor or a third party.  The EEOC is committed to using all available means, including litigation, to combat sexual harassment in the workplace."

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