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EEOC: boss set video cameras to ogle woman at Worthington company

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against an office furniture and supply company in Worthington after its operations manager allegedly set up the business’s security cameras to focus in on an employee’s breasts and body and streamed hours of that video to his office computer. This created a sexually-hostile work environment what the EEOC called a “particularly egregious” violation of her and all of its employees’ rights.

"Security cameras in the workplace are almost as common as computers," said the director of the EEOC's Chicago District, which handles the agency’s enforcement of discrimination laws for Minnesota. "No one should ever have to worry that this constant monitoring is being used to satisfy their boss's sexual fantasy."

When the woman found out about the man’s sexually-intrusive surveillance, she immediately reported it to another manager, the EEOC says. When the company refused to take any effective action, she felt forced to quit. When workers reasonably feel they must choose between their jobs and their rights as employees and quit, it can legally be considered wrongful termination under a theory called “constructive termination.”

The EEOC had no better luck with the company when it attempted to negotiate a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, according to a press release, and was forced to file the lawsuit on Wednesday. It intends to prove in court, according to its regional attorney, that the company knew of the man’s video-ogling but refused to take even the minimal action necessary to stop it or to assure the woman and the EEOC that it would provide the harassment-free workplace that is required by law.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring the company to develop and enforce a an anti-sexual harassment policy that protects employees’ rights and complies with federal law. It also demands back pay and other compensation for the wrongful termination, along with punitive damages against the company.

“Employers who fail to take reasonable, simple measures to protect victims from further sexual harassment do so at their peril,” warned the EEOC’s attorney.

Source: EEOC press release, “EEOC Lawsuit Challenges Sexual Harassment at Davis Typewriter Company,” Aug. 27, 2013

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