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California hospital will pay $530,000 to settle sexual harassment, retaliation suit

A southern California hospital will pay more than $500,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, according to a recent news article.

The medical center, just south of Pasadena, reportedly agreed to the settlement last week.

The settlement satisfies a suit filed by 10 current or former female staff members who complained that a male employee inappropriately touched co-workers, propositioned them for sex, engaged in graphic discussions of sex and shared obscene photographs from 2007 to 2009. He also allegedly made obscene comments regarding underage female patients, according to the news report.

After the women reported the harassment to the hospital's management, they reportedly faced a hostile work environment which prompted several of them to quit. One woman was even allegedly fired after reporting the inappropriate workplace behavior, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The accused male employee was not fired until two years after the initial harassment complaint was directed to management, according to the news article.

The hospital has not admitted wrongdoing, but has agreed to pay $430,000 to 10 victims as well as reserve $100,000 for payments to as of yet unidentified victims.

Also included in the agreement, called a "consent decree," are promises that the hospital will make moves to avoid further harassment and retaliation in the workplace. These methods will reportedly include offering specified training and a complaint hotline for employees.

This hospital employs more than 1,300 people and is owned by a larger healthcare organization which operates five additional hospitals in Southern California.

Much too often, workplace sexual harassment such as this goes unreported and unpunished, meaning victims go without counseling. In this case, these 10 women will hopefully experience a sense of closure in light of the settlement; and unidentified victims may find the courage and guidance they need to step forward.

Source: Pasadena Star-News, "Garfield Medical Center to pay $530,000 to settle sexual harassment, retaliation lawsuit ," Brian Day, Nov. 16, 2011

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