SEATTLE, Wash. — The owner of a Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, a hotel located near the Seattle-Tacoma airport in Kent, Wash., violated federal law when it allowed a manager to sexually harass two Latina housekeepers and retaliated against one after she protested the illegal conduct, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the lawsuit, a male manager at Hawthorn Suites harassed them by cornering and groping them they were alone cleaning hotel rooms, mocking them for objecting to the assaults, and making sexual comments to them. One housekeeper felt compelled to quit out of fear for her safety. After the other housekeeper, with the help of a bilingual co-worker, reported the harassment to the general manager, he drastically cut her work hours and denied her an hourly raise given to other housekeepers.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace as well as retaliation against an employee for opposing harassment. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. GIPHX10, LLC d/b/a Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Civil No. 2:20-cv-01369) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages for each worker, training on anti-discrimination laws and posting of notices at the worksite in Spanish, and other injunctive relief.
“According to the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, the risk of harassment often increases in workplaces with significant power disparities, isolated workspaces, and employees with limited English proficiency,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “Employers should ensure that workers receive information regarding harassment policies in a language and manner they understand. In this case, both women were monolingual Spanish speakers, but none of Hawthorn Suites’ anti-discrimination policies and procedures were available in Spanish.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley said, “One of EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon’s priorities for 2020 is enhancing our efforts to reach vulnerable workers. These two women were particularly vulnerable, seeking to oppose harassment by the very person with power and authority over them, working in isolated work spaces, and facing a language barrier. Employers must guard against illegal harassment and make their workplaces safe for all.”
The EEOC’s Seattle Field Office has jurisdiction over Oregon. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.