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Southern California hospital settles sexual harassment lawsuit

Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park has recently been the subject of sexual harassment and retaliation complaints filed by 10 female employees. The complaints, which primarily involved the actions of one male emergency room staff member, alleged that he sexually harassed the employees between 2007 and 2009, when the man was finally fired. However, before the man's termination, the women allege, hospital management retaliated against the women for complaining.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of the women against Garfield Medical Center. According to the complaint, the man touched female coworkers in sexual ways, propositioned them for sex and engaged in graphic sex talk at work. He also showed women graphic photos and made sexual comments on women's body parts, including those of underage female patients.

When the female employees complained to management, they were subjected to retaliation. One was fired, and several others felt they had no choice but to quit their jobs rather than continue to work in such a sexually hostile work environment. When employees who feel forced to resign rather than endure illegal harassment, it is called "constructive termination" and is illegal.

Garfield Medical Center has recently decided to settle the case and has entered into a consent decree with the EEOC. Under the terms of the settlement, Garfield will pay the 10 plaintiffs $430,000 and set aside an additional $100,000 to compensate any victims not yet identified.

The hospital will also be required to purge any negative reports in the plaintiffs' personnel files, carry out additional anti-sexual harassment training for management and staff, set up a toll-free complaint hotline and take other protective measures.

AHMC Healthcare Inc., which runs Garfield, also operates five other hospitals in Southern California, including the Greater El Monte Community Hospital, Monterey Park Hospital, the San Gabriel Valley Medical Center, Whittier Hospital Medical Center and Anaheim Regional Medical Center. It is not clear whether the other five hospitals will be affected by the consent decree.

"In order to be productive, employees deserve a workplace free from sexual comments, repeated propositions and inappropriate touching," said an EEOC regional attorney for the Los Angeles District Office.

"We commend Garfield for agreeing to sweeping injunctive relief remedies to ensure this does not happen again."

Source: sgvtribune.com, "UPDATED: Garfield Medical Center settles sexual harassment, retaliation lawsuit," Brian Day, Nov. 16, 2011