Prospect Airport Services, a Chicago based company with operations at McCarran International Airport, has learned that ignoring sexual harassment complaints is not only bad business, it can be very expensive. According to Rudolpho Lamas, a wheelchair assistant with the company, in 2002, a young female coworker, Silvia Munoz, began sexually harassing him with sexually suggestive notes. Lamas, who wife had passed away the prior year, rebuffed Munoz and informed a general manager of the sexual harassment. Prospect had no effective company policy to address sexual harassment.
According to the EEOC report, the supervisor not only suggested Lamas take Munoz’ actions as a joke or compliment, the supervisor did nothing to stop the sexual harassment. As the sexual harassment continued, Munoz, a married woman, sent Lamas a seminude photo of herself, and made lewd gestures and other inappropriate actions, such as recruiting other Prospect employees to approach Lamas on her behalf. Over the course of a year, the harassment escalated to a near-daily basis. Despite his repeated complaints to management, the hostile work environment ended only when he resigned in 2003.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The court granted summary judgment in favor of Prospect in 2007. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in 2010, allowing a jury trial in the lower court to proceed with the opinion that such a trial might favor the EEOC. Prior to the commencement of the trial, the case was settled, with Prospect agreeing to a $75 thousand monetary settlement to Lamas. Though Prospect neither contested that Lamas was sexually harassed, nor that the company failed to respond to Lamas’ complaint, it refused to agree to any prospective relief to prevent future harassment. The EEOC then filed an order for injunctive relief against Prospect.
U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson, who was the judge on the former Las Vegas nightclub operator Steve Davidovici case until he was removed for bias, agreed with the EEOC and issued an order requiring Prospect to develop a policy and procedures for handling reports of sexual harassment; develop an effective investigation process for all complaints of sexual harassment; appropriately discipline management and human resources staff for failure to comply with such procedures; and provide annual sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees. Additionally, Judge Dawson ordered Prospect to be monitored for compliance for three years and not violate the Civil Rights Act for five years. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the judge’s order.
On his Facebook page, Lamas thanked the EEOC and wrote the “years of litigation and legal hell could have been avoided with a handshake and an apology back in 2003.”
In 2011, 16 percent of all sexual harassment charges filed nationally with the EEOC were filed by men. While the most frequent sexual harassment complaints are from women against men, there are also complaints of sexual harassment from the same sex. Much rarer are complaints by men that women are harassing them, possibly because men are reluctant to report and there are fewer such cases.
Since the EEOC opened an office in Las Vegas, it has settled sexual discrimination cases involving Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay, America West Airlines, Valentino’s Restaurant, and Timbers Hospitality Group, among others. Currently, there are five active employment discrimination cases in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas law office of Lagomarsino Law did not represent anyone involved in any cases that may be referenced above. This commentary is for educational purposes. If you would like to be represented by an attorney in our Las Vegas office, contact our office for a free confidential case review and receive a response within 24 hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400.