The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission caught a whiff, sued the employer in December, and just announced a $361,000 settlement for seven current and former female employees.
So, here’s what supposedly happened, according to the EEOC’s press release.
According to the EEOC’s suit, [the company’s founder, owner and president … sexually harassed female employees on a near-daily basis since 2010 and repeatedly stated that female employees did not belong in the building trades because of their sex. His behavior included offensive graphic comments and sexually explicit innuendoes; touching women without their consent; unwanted remarks about their bodies; requests to wear more revealing clothing; leering; and offering tickets to a nearby strip club, the EEOC charged.
The EEOC further alleged that multiple reports of such conduct spanned over the years, and corporate directors (who were also company managers) knew about them but did not take prompt or effective actions to stop the boss’s harassment.
Plus, there’s that HR expert up there in the blog title.
Apparently, in late 2018, the company engaged an HR consultant who recommended employee training on sexual harassment because he likened the company’s workplace culture to a “sewer,” which included tolerating the owner’s behavior. However, the EEOC claimed that the company did not provide recommended sexual harassment training to its owners, managers, supervisors, or employees for years (if at all). Instead, the company directors allowed the owner to continue his sexual harassment unabated, causing one female employee to quit.
All of this alleged lousy behavior finally came back to bite the company. The $361,000 settlement that the EEOC struck with the company reflects the maximum compensatory damages available by statute for an employer this company’s size – to the seven courageous claimants. For employers with 15-100 employees, the limit on compensatory damages is $50,000 per plaintiff. The female employee who could no longer tolerate the alleged behavior and had to quit received full back pay.
And the company isn’t out of the EEOC’s crosshairs yet. As part of the deal, it signed a five-year consent decree that requires the company to retain an independent consultant to assist it in developing anti-discrimination policies and procedures, receive and independently and confidentially investigate any complaints of sexual harassment or retaliation, and determine appropriate corrective action to remedy any complaints of discrimination or retaliation.
Ironically, if the company had just listened to its HR expert the first time, it could have avoided this lawsuit altogether.