Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment at Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort

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A manager at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort showed a member of the housekeeping staff his penis and propositioned her for sex several times, a lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges. When the woman complained to the manager's supervisor and reported the harassment, she was fired, according to the suit. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by the EEOC, also says that other women on staff at the hotel were harassed. 

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, a male manager subjected the plaintiff, Katrina Archer, to repeated sexual harassment. He grabbed Archer's breasts, the suit says. He also exposed his penis to her, tried pulling her onto his lap, and repeatedly asked for sex. The manager also touched other female employees without their consent and made inappropriate comments about their bodies, according to the EEOC.

Archer, who worked as a groundskeeper and housekeeper for the hotel, repeatedly complained to the manager's supervisor, who apparently not only knew of the harassment but witnessed some of it herself. But nothing was done to stop the harassment, and things only got worse. 

When the harassment continued, Archer threatened to take her complaints to a second-level supervisor of the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort and even threatened to tell the manager's wife. That, the EEOC says, is when Archer was fired. 

“No employee should be required to endure sexually degrading, abusive conduct as a condition of employment,” Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for EEOC’s Miami District Office, said in a news release. “And employees who report and oppose such conduct should be lauded as heroes, not punished. This lawsuit seeks to protect the civil rights of an important but vulnerable segment of Florida’s labor force – the hospitality worker.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, also charges Vacation Resorts International with unlawfully firing Archer when she resisted and reported the harassment. The suit specifically targets VRI, a hospitality company that owns the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Both sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC says.

“EEOC has a significant law enforcement duty to protect all members of the workforce," Miami District Office Director Ozzie Black says. 
"Constant vigilance is as much a part of our mission today as it was 50 years ago, when the agency began.”

The EEOC says the suit against VRI was filed after first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement. The suit seeks back pay, front pay, either reinstatement or compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

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