Oregon Veterinary Services to Pay Over $43,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Chief of Staff Targeted Young Female Nurse, Federal Agency Charged

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland-based veterinary services Hannah’s, Inc. and Hannah’s Pet Hospitals, Inc. will pay over $43,000 and make significant changes to its policies and internal complaint procedures to settle a sexual harassment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC’s investigation showed that a male veterinarian began to sexually harass a pet nurse shortly after she was hired at Hannah’s Tigard, Oregon clinic, conduct that eventually caused her to quit. His harassing conduct included asking her inappropriate sexual questions and commenting on the size of parts of her body. He also addressed female employees with gendered pejoratives and said things such as “shut up, woman” and “stupid woman.” Despite the ongoing harassment complaints against the veterinarian, the EEOC found that the company failed to take corrective action and instead promoted him on two occasions, including to the position of chief of staff.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Case No. 3:17-cv-01520-SI, EEOC v. Hannah’s, Inc., and Hannah’s Pet Hospitals of Oregon, Inc. (First Amended Complaint), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing the nurse with $43,179 in damages for emotional distress and lost wages, the three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit calls for significant changes to Hannah’s workplace policies and internal complaint procedures. The companies agreed to retain an expert to help draft and implement these changes and to train employees as well as owners and upper management, in addition to reporting to the EEOC on their efforts to prevent harassment in the future.

“This young woman’s courage to file a charge with the EEOC helped put a stop to the harassment and will make this workplace safer for female employees in the future,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores. “The EEOC will aggressively investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute employers that violate the rights of their employees, particularly when the alleged harasser exploits a power differential to target a worker who is more junior and subordinate.”

EEOC Acting San Francisco District Director Nancy Sienko said, “Sexual harassment continues to be a serious workplace problem. It is critical that employers train managers and employees to recognize that no one in the organization is above the law, and that sexual harassment absolutely will not be tolerated. These changes in policies, procedures and training gives Hannah's the opportunity to be a positive role model to emulate.”

According to their website, hannahsociety.com, the companies (also known as Hannah the Pet Society and Hannah Pet Hospital), own and operate facilities in Tigard and Portland, Oregon.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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