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Sep-03-2008 11:01printcomments

Bonneville Hot Springs to Pay $470,000 for Class Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

EEOC Says Many Women Subjected to Vulgar Sexual Comments, Unwanted Touching, Propositioning

Salem-News.com
Image: hospitalityonline

(SEATTLE) - North Bonneville, Wash., resort destination Bonneville Hot Springs will pay $470,000 to a class of sexual harassment and retaliation victims to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC announced today.

The Bonneville Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa is located in North Bonneville, Washington, 40 minutes from Portland and Vancouver. It offers to "share the healing waters with thousands of rejuvenation seekers around the world" on its website, but it took the EEOC to heal the resort's employees woes.

The Bonneville Resort is privately owned by Pete Cam, who bought the property in 1991 and created his vision over a ten-year span.

According to the EEOC's suit, the company's practice of harassing female employees started at the top, with illegal conduct by the resort's owner.

The EEOC further claimed that the resort's executive chef repeatedly subjected females to graphic sexual discussions, pornographic images and requests for sexual favors. The lawsuit alleged that Bonneville condoned and accepted this sexually harassing behavior, and the Commission obtained testimony from the resort's human resources director that the owner's harassing conduct was common knowledge at the resort.

According to the EEOC, the same HR director failed to take appropriate action against the chef, whom she was dating and has since married. In addition, the EEOC charged that the resort retaliated against female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment. Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. Under a consent decree filed with the federal court, Bonneville agreed to pay $370,000 to 11 women who came forward during the EEOC's lawsuit; another $100,000 has been established in a trust to provide compensation to a class of females subjected to harassment.

The company also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training for the owner, managers, supervisors and employees; establish policies and procedures to address sexual harassment issues; provide information to the EEOC concerning any future discrimination complaints; and allow EEOC to monitor the work site for the next three years. Christina Sibbett, who filed the charges that initiated the class action, said, "I hope this settlement will encourage other employees to speak out against this type of disgusting behavior and will make life better for all women who work in Washington."

The EEOC's San Francisco District Office Acting Director Mike Baldonado noted, "The treatment that these women experienced by the owner were inexcusable. I am glad the EEOC was able to ensure that the company has protections in place so this will not happen in the future."

"The facts of this case are shocking, and the owner and chef's behavior was appalling," said EEOC Regional Attorney Bill Tamayo.

"It is unfortunate that we continue to see this type of egregious sexual harassment toward female employees. We trust this case sends a message that the EEOC will not tolerate this type of abuse."

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Teri Healy, who was responsible for litigating the case, encouraged current or former female employees employed by Bonneville Hot Springs Resort to contact her as soon as possible if they believe they were subjected to sexual harassment. They may be eligible for monetary compensation out of the class fund, said Healy.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age and disability. The Seattle Field Office's jurisdiction includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.

(EEOC, et. al. v. Bonneville Hot Springs, Inc. d/b/a Bonneville Hot Springs Resort & Spa, No. C07-5321-FDB, Western District of Washington at Tacoma)




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