Olympia, WA-based Koelsch Communities said it has taken several steps to reinforce a core value of the company, that all people should be treated with dignity and respect, after an employee accused her supervisor of sexual harassment.
The company and one of the memory care communities it operates, The Hampton at Salmon Creek in Vancouver, WA, agreed to pay $450,000 and adopt anti-discrimination policies and training to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced late Wednesday.
“We have settled this suit and take the EEOC findings very seriously,” Koelsch said in a statement to McKnight’s Senior Living.
The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that a female employee at The Hampton at Salmon Creek faced “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” from her female supervisor. “This included sexually charged comments, unwanted touching, repeated requests for foot rubs and discussions about intimate details about the supervisor’s marriage, dating and sexual practices,” the federal agency said, adding, “When the employee reported the unwelcome behavior to upper management, Koelsch failed to investigate properly and quickly sided with the supervisor, which emboldened the woman to continue harassing her subordinate.”
“In September of 2015, we were notified that in one of our communities, an employee made a claim that one of their supervisors’ actions were offensive,” Koelsch said in the statement. “We took that claim seriously, and the accused individual was disciplined.”
Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC said. The agency said it filed the lawsuit after trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
Koelsch said that months before it reached the settlement that the EEOC announced Wednesday, the company required all senior leaders across the company to attend anti-harassment training. The organization said it also has revised the company harassment policy and established a company-wide human resources department to help enforce its policies.
The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit requires Koelsch and The Hampton at Salmon Creek to pay $450,000 in damages to the employee and train high-level managers employed by both entities and other employees of The Hampton of Salmon Creek to prevent misconduct in the future.
“The law requires employers to take action to stop sexual harassment, whether committed by a woman or a man, against someone who is the same or opposite sex,” EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko said. “Employers may face a particular challenge when the harasser is a supervisor. …It’s vital that employers conduct fair and impartial harassment investigations without favoring a person due to his or her rank.”