Hotel Owners Failed to Investigate Manager Who Groped Latina Housekeepers, Federal Agency Charged
SEATTLE — GIPHX10, LLC, and Jaffer, Inc., Edmonton, Canada-based companies that operated as Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham until November 2021, have agreed to pay $370,000 to two female former housekeeping employees and to provide other relief to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit initiated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the owners permitted the male maintenance/housekeeping manager to sexually harass two female housekeepers at the hotel, located near the Seattle-Tacoma airport in Kent, Washington. The abuse, the EEOC said, included groping the women when they were alone cleaning hotel rooms, mocking them for objecting to the assaults, making sexually explicit comments to them and repeatedly threatening one worker with rape. This caused one woman to quit out of fear for her safety.
After one of the housekeepers reported the harassment to the general manager with the help of a bilingual co-worker, GIPHX10, LLC, and Jaffer, Inc., failed to conduct a thorough investigation and simply accepted the manager’s denial of the allegations. The EEOC claimed that the general manager then retaliated against the housekeeper by cutting her work hours and denying her an hourly raise given to other housekeepers.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit to obtain relief for the two female housekeepers in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process (EEOC v. GIPHX10, LLC d/b/a Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Case No. 2:20-cv-01369). Both workers intervened in the EEOC's suit, filed additional state law claims, and Jaffer, Inc., was joined by the court as a necessary party on June 3, 2021.
Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, GIPHX10, LLC and Jaffer, Inc., will pay $370,000 to the two workers. The decree also requires that both companies retain an independent consultant to help them develop policies and procedures to recognize, prevent and correct sexual harassment and retaliation, including an internal complaint system. They also agree to implement companywide training, with investigation training for managers and the owners with an active role in managing the hotels, and policies to ensure accountability with regard to anti-discrimination practices. The EEOC will monitor the workplace for the duration of the decree to ensure compliance, if either or both companies resume hotel operations in Washington state.
“We have seen the risk of workplace harassment increase when there is a large power difference, when the targeted employee can be isolated, and when employees have limited English proficiency, as noted in the EEOC's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director Nancy Sienko. “Employers should ensure that workers receive information regarding harassment policies in a manner and language they understand, which in this case would have been in Spanish.”
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores added, “While these two hotel owners are based in Canada, any company doing business in the United States must comply with our federal EEO laws. We hope this settlement sends a clear message that defending vulnerable workers and preventing and remedying harassment in the workplace remain top priorities for the Commission.”
The EEOC’s Seattle Field Office has jurisdiction over Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov; specifically, information about sexual harassment can be found at https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-harassment.