$5.8 Million Sexual Harassment lawsuit goes to the EEOC

A large building-maintenance company will pay $5.8 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the government involving 21 Hispanic female workers who had to endure everything from explicit sexual comments to rape.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Thursday the settlement with ABM Industries Inc. and two of its janitorial subsidiaries. The charges date back to 2001.

The EEOC said the victims faced “varying degrees of unwelcome touching, explicit sexual comments and requests for sex by 14 male co-workers and supervisors, one of whom was a registered sex offender. Some of the harassers allegedly often exposed themselves, groped female employees’ private parts from behind, and even raped at least one of the victims.”

Original ABM sexual harassment lawsuit article at NBCNews.com here.

The article in MSNBC on the ABM sexual harassment lawsuit states “The agency charged that ABM failed to respond to the complaints creating a “dangerous and hostile environment” but many of the harassers were not fired as a result.”

In the Enforcement Guidance on Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors the EEOC states “If an employer cannot prove that it discharged its duty of reasonable care and that the employee unreasonably failed to avoid the harm, the employer will be liable. For example, if unlawful harassment by a supervisor occurred and the employer failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent it, the employer will be liable even if the employee unreasonably failed to complain to management or even if the employer took prompt and appropriate corrective action when it gained notice.”

The important takeaway from this lawsuit is that it is the responsibility of the employer to respond to complaints by employees about situations which might create a dangerous and hostile environment for employees.  If an employer does not respond and take appropriate action then the employer potentially faces liability for the harassment.

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