A skilled nursing operator must pay $50,000 and enhance its anti-harassment policies as part of its settlement in a US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.
A housekeeping aide was the victim of sexual harassment by an administrator of Nazareth Living Care Center in El Paso, TX, including repeated suggestive comments and “forcible kissing,” according to the EEOC.
The aide reported the incidents to her supervisor, who then escalated the report to human resources. But, according to the lawsuit, both the aide and her supervisor were targeted with workplace retaliation and no investigation into the alleged harassment was ever conducted.
“The administrator whose misconduct was reported was never disciplined,” said an EEOC report announcing the lawsuit in September. “The aide was subjected to taunting and criticism by onsite management at the facility after her complaint. The supervisor who sought intervention from upper management to assist the aide was later given a written disciplinary warning for ‘gossiping.’ Ultimately, both were constructively discharged.”
A constructive discharge takes place when a worker leaves a job due to a “hostile or intolerable” work environment or is otherwise pressured to leave by the employer, according to the US Department of Justice.
In the midst of national struggles to both recruit and retain care workers, many nursing home staff report being fearful of retaliation at work. Cases like this may only add fuel to that trend.
Paramount Healthcare Consultants, operator of 18 care facilities in Texas and Louisiana, and the EEOC moved to settle the case last week, with the EEOC announcement being released Friday.
Paramount did not respond to McKnight’s request for comment Monday.
Beyond the $50,000 in monetary relief, the operator will strengthen its anti-harassment reporting and investigation policies, provide training to HR and administrator employees at its Texas facilities and distribute notices of these policies to employees in both English and Spanish.