The EEOC recently filed a lawsuit against the Home2 Suites hotel chain alleging that the hotel manager sexually harassed its female housekeeper for months and then fired her for complaining about it.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the manager made inappropriate comments to the housekeeper about her intimate body parts, requested sex from the housekeeper, and physically touched the housekeeper on an intimate body part while making comments about wanting to have sex with her. When the housekeeper complained to the General Manager, he allegedly ignored the employer’s policies, laughed off the complaint, conducted no investigation, and took no disciplinary action. The General Manager did not even remove the employee from working for that supervisor.
When the employee later took a day off, which she thought had been approved, the manager (alleged harasser) claimed he had not approved the time off and terminated the employee.
The EEOC filed suit on behalf of the housekeeper, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC alleged that the hotel failed to take appropriate actions to prevent the harassment, failed to investigate the housekeeper’s allegations, and allowed her to be terminated in retaliation for having made a complaint and repeatedly rebuffing the supervisor’s advances.
The hotel pointed to its anti-harassment policies in defense of the lawsuit. However, since the manager failed to take action, in violation of those very policies, the hotel is subject to liability.
What does this mean for employers? Yes, it is important for employers to have policies that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment. However, what good is a policy if the managers do not adhere to them?
Employers must train managerial employees on EEO policies annually so they understand what conduct is considered illegal, what the policies actually prohibit and require, and the critical importance of taking all allegations of violations seriously and reporting them to upper management.
The attorneys at York Bowman Law, LLC are experienced in EEO laws and can assist with managerial and employee training.