EEOC Sues Trinity Medical Center for Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - Trinity Medical Center in Rock Island, Ill., violated federal law when it permitted the sexual harassment of an employee and then fired her for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to EEOC, the administrative investigation it conducted prior to the lawsuit revealed that Deborah Chisholm had been subjected to hostile, abusive and lewd comments and had complained repeatedly to management. Instead of addressing the problem, the EEOC said, the company terminated her in retaliation.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Rock Island Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit is captioned EEOC v. Trinity Medical Center, C.D. Illinois No. 4:12-cv-4085 and has been assigned to District Judge Sara Darrow. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction prohibiting harassment and discrimin­ation in the future.

"Trinity brought its current troubles upon itself," said John Rowe, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, who managed the investigation. "First, it permitted the sexual harassment, then it compounded that problem by firing the victim who, rightfully, was complaining."

John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago, said, "Employers ought to learn from this case. Any employment discrimination problem -- sexual harassment or anything else -- can always be made worse and more injurious to the conduct of the employer's business. Retaliation is guaranteed to do that. It never makes sense, it is never good for business, and it is always illegal."