Home Care Agency Fired Three Employees for Sexual Harassment Complaints, Federal Agency Charges

ST. LOUIS – Help at Home, Inc., a company that provides home health care to elderly and disabled individuals in their homes, violated federal law by allowing the company’s regional director to sexually harass employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a discrimination lawsuit filed today. The company also unlawfully fired the victims and their supervisor for complaining, the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s suit, in early September 2009, Kari McConnell and Jaclyn Stone, two employees at Help at Home’s Hillsboro, Mo., office, complained to Sherry Schroetter, branch manager of the site, that Regional Director Chris Qualls sexually harassed them. The harassment is alleged to have included graphic sexual comments made to both McConnell and Stone, particularly of sexual acts that Qualls performed with another employee at the worksite. After Schroetter complained to Vice President Rick Cantrell on behalf of her subordinates, all three were terminated.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from allowing a sexually hostile environment in the workplace. It also protects employees from retaliation based on their complaints about violations of the law. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Help at Home, Inc.) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Civil Action No. 4:12-cv-01498, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“We’re well into the 21st century, and by now all employers should be well aware that women must be allowed to work in an environment free of harassment based on sex,” said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District. “The employer must also support employees who come forward to try to complain about sexual harassment and not retaliate against them. The EEOC is committed to eliminating sexual harassment and retaliation for protected activities from the workplace.”