A Weatherford company has settled a sexual discrimination lawsuit with the federal government after a woman complained of crude comments, unwanted touching and a manager who exposed himself to her, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hobson Air Conditioning settled a sexual-harassment and constructive-discharge lawsuit brought by the commission the day before the case was to be presented to a jury, the commission said Thursday. The settlement pays the woman $37,500 and imposes extensive conditions on Hobson.
Attorney Trey Harris of Fort Worth, who represents Hobson, said that the company admitted no wrongdoing and that the amount was about 20 percent of “what their best offer was in mediation.” “It is my opinion that the plaintiff’s evidence was quite weak,” he said. “Hobson is committed to an environment free of any kind of sexual harassment. They always have been. Hobson is a family business.”
The woman, a former Hobson installation coordinator, was the only female employee at its Kennedale facility. According to the commission, her manager subjected her to sexually vulgar comments and touches soon after she was hired, including repeatedly asking her to show him her breasts, making crude sexual demands of her “and even exposing himself to her on multiple occasions.” The woman reported the harassment to higher management, but nothing was done to stop the behavior or discipline the manager, the commission said. The company did not investigate her report, the behavior continued and the woman “had no choice but to quit,” the commission said. Constructive discharge, in employment law, refers to situations where an employee has no choice but to resign because the employer’s actions have become so intolerable.
“To have a manager subject a subordinate employee to such mistreatment has the potential to establish the acceptance of such behavior in the workplace,” commission lawyer Devika Seth said. “We hope this settlement shows that there will be accountability when such an abuse of power occurs.” Harris said that the conduct was supposed to have occurred in 2008 and that the manager is no longer with Hobson. In the settlement, Hobson also agreed to:
- Revise its sexual harassment policy and procedures to provide multiple avenues for reporting harassment.
- Conduct annual training for five years on the laws against sexual harassment and the proper procedure for investigating complaints.
- Report to the commission any complaints of sexual harassment for the next five years and post an anti-discrimination notice.
- Place in the ex-manager’s personnel file a notice reflecting the complaint.