The owners and operators of a Colorado long-term care facility violated federal law by tolerating the sexual harassment of female employees by residents, alleges a lawsuit filed Friday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The federal agency filed the lawsuit against the SSC Montrose San Juan Operating Co., LLC, SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services, LLC, and Sava Senior Care LLC (collectively, “Sava”) regarding alleged activity at the San Juan Living Center in Montrose, CO.

According to the lawsuit, residents at the long-term care facility repeatedly subjected female employees to sexual harassment. The EEOC alleged that Sava’s clients would grab female employees’ breasts and buttocks, ask them for sexual favors, and use inappropriate sexual language around them. The EEOC further alleged that female employees complained about the harassment to Sava management and that Sava was aware of the ongoing harassment. According to the EEOC, Sava did nothing to stop the harassment or prevent future harassment.

The EEOC also alleged that Sava retaliated against a female employee who reported the harassment by suspending her without pay and firing her within days of her complaint. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation. 

The EEOC said it filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks compensa­tory and punitive damages for the female employees allegedly subjected to the sexual harassment, backpay for the employee allegedly subjected to retaliation, and appropriate injunctive relief to prevent similar discrimination in the future.

“Employers must ensure that their employees can work in an environment free from sexual harassment,” said regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “When an employer learns that an employee is being sexually harassed, the employer must act immediately regardless of whether the alleged harasser is a manager, employee, or client.”

A Sava spokesperson told the Montrose Press that neither the company nor the community  had been served with the complaint yet so could not comment on the allegations.