POSTED: 1:53 p.m. HST, Jun 7, 2011
A Big Island veterinary clinic has agreed to pay $101,000 to settle a federal sexual harassment lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today.
A co-owner of East Hawaii Veterinary Center in Hilo regularly subjected eight female employees to harassment since 2005, according to the lawsuit filed by commission. The women included receptionists and a veterinarian.
"On a near-daily basis, the co-owner insulted female staff by making unwelcome sexual remarks, as well as disparaging and hostile comments about women," the commission said in a news release.
At least three of the women were fired and others were forced to quit, the commission said.
The center has denied the allegations.
"The company is committed to providing a good work environment for its employees and is pleased that it was able to work cooperatively with the EEOC to resolve the complaint," attorney Jennifer L. Zelko said in a statement.
The center has entered into a 2-1/2 year consent decree agreeing to revise existing policies and complaint procedures to address sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, the commission said.
Other steps the center has agreed to take include hiring an equal employment opportunity consultant and training owners, managers, supervisors and lead employees on how to address discrimination.
The commission will monitor compliance and review handling of internal complaints.
"We commend the clinic for taking the issues raised in the EEOC's complaint seriously and taking proactive measures in the early stages of this litigation to implement preventive measures at its workplace," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the commission's Los Angeles district office, which includes Hawaii.
The center has been open since 2003 and is a locally owned clinic treating small, avian and exotic animals.