Hospital settles sexual harassment suit

LOS ANGELES - Garfield Medical Center, an acute care facility in Monterey Park, will pay $530,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging the sexual harassment of its staff, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced this week.According to the federal agency, several of the female targets of harassment were either retaliated against or compelled to quit after their complaints were ignored by hospital management. The EEOC said that starting in 2007, the hospital allowed a male emergency room admitting representative to harass a class of female employees by subjecting them to inappropriate touching, propositions for sex, graphic discussions of sexual activities, and obscene pictures and comments regarding female body parts, including those of underage patients. One employee was terminated after reporting the harassment, while others were compelled to quit rather than endure the hostile work environment, the agency said. Despite complaints to hospital management, the offending employee was not terminated until 2009, more than two years after the initial complaints were lodged. The EEOC originally filed suit against the hospital in August 2010. As part of the settlement, Garfield Medical Center entered into a three-year consent decree providing for the monetary relief for at least 10 named victims along with "sweeping injunctive relief designed to prevent and appropriately deal with future instances of harassment." Of the settlement amount, $100,000 will be set aside as a class fund for victims who have yet to be identified. The settlement also requires the hospital to maintain a toll-free complaint hotline; retain a consultant to monitor and track complaints; provide anti-harassment and anti-retaliation training for all staff; and report compliance efforts to the EEOC. "In order to be productive, employees deserve a workplace free from sexual comments, repeated propositions and inappropriate touching," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles district office. "We commend Garfield for agreeing to sweeping injunctive relief remedies to ensure this does not happen again."

********** Published: November 24, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 32