The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today that a significant sexual harassment and retaliation case involving a former Florida vacation agency has come to a close. A federal jury ordered the agency–which had offices in Largo, Orlando and Lake Lauderdale–to pay more than $20 million to eight former employees.
The EEOC had accused the owner of the Florida business as well as multiple male managers of sexually abusing and harassing female employees on a daily basis. The illegal treatment included unwanted touching, unwanted sexual advances, repeated propositions for sex, sexual banter and an egregious disrespect for women. In addition to treating a class of female employees this way, the company fired a manager who brought the victims’ complaints forward.
The jury verdict, which was returned Tuesday, awarded $99,876 in back pay, $2.5 million in compensatory damages as well as $10 million in punitive damages to five former female employees. Two other former female employees and a former male manager were awarded $1.25 million in compensatory damages as well as $6 million in punitive damages. These three former employees were also designated a total of more than $400,000 in back pay, according to the jury verdict.
The actual payouts will be less due to a federal cap on damages.
Although the company declined to reach a pre-trial settlement with the EEOC, it reportedly did not present any evidence contrary to the allegations at the hearing.
Sexual harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is important that employers and employees are aware that sexual harassment includes a number of things–from fostering a sexually hostile work environment, to unwanted advances, comments of a sexual nature and more. When sexual harassment is reported, the employer has a legal obligation to take action; and, the employer has no right to retaliate against the person making the report. Those who believe they are being sexually harassed at work may be wise to seek legal counsel to learn how to stand up for their federal employment rights.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “EEOC Wins Jury Verdict of More Than $20 Million for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation,” May 1, 2013