East Hawaii Veterinary Center to Pay $101,000 for Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Retaliation

HONOLULU, Hawaii — East Hawaii Veterinary Center, LLC, a veterinary clinic in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, will pay $101,000 and furnish other relief to settle a federal sexual and gender-based harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, a co-owner of the clinic regularly subjected female employees – who ranged from receptionists to a veterinarian – to harassing conduct since at least 2005. 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. In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that the clinic failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct the unlawful harassing behavior. The EEOC also contended that the offending co-owner fired at least three of the women and forced others to quit.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC originally filed its lawsuit in September 2010 in U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii (EEOC v. East Hawaii Veterinary Center, LLC, Case No. CV 10-00559-DAE-LEK) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Aside from the monetary relief, the parties entered into a two-and-a-half-year consent decree in which East Hawaii Veterinary Center agreed to revise its existing policies and complaint procedures to address sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation; hire an equal employment opportunity (EEO) consultant to assist with compliance; train all staff on their rights and responsibilities under EEO laws with an emphasis on sexual harassment; provide additional training to company owners, managers, supervisors and lead employees on how to appropriately address discrimination; and allow the EEOC to monitor compliance and review the 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 EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “A work environment that is free of harassment ensures a more productive and vibrant workplace for all.”

Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “Sexual harassment and gender discrimination remain problems in Hawaii, and it is important to remember the debilitating effects that such misconduct can have on a work environment. Employers that do not have effective anti-harassment policies and fail to take immediate action send a message that such behavior is tolerated, giving license for the abuse to continue and worsen over time.”

Open since 2003, the East Hawaii Veterinary Center is a locally owned and operated clinic which provides medical and emergency services for small, avian and exotic animals on the Big Island of Hawaii, according to the company’s website.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.