MARCH 11, 2020
Koelsch Senior Communities and The Hampton at Salmon Creek – a memory care facility located in Vancouver, Washington – agree to pay $450,000 to a former female employee who alleged that she was repeatedly sexually harassed and retaliated against by management.
SEATTLE – Former employee Rebecca Flores settled her federal sexual harassment and retaliation case against Koelsch for $450,000 with significant non-monetary remedial relief in a Consent Decree entered in federal court today (No. 3:18-cv-05792 BHS).
Lead trial counsel for the former employee, Seattle attorneys Scott C. G. Blankenship and Rick Goldsworthy of The Blankenship Law Firm, PLLC, negotiated the settlement along with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) lead counsel Carmen Flores, Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley, and Regional Attorney Roberta Steele. The trial was set to begin in May 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma.
In the lawsuit, Ms. Flores alleged that her direct supervisor – a woman – repeatedly requested that Ms. Flores give her foot rubs, told her she wanted to “rub her butt,” told her to “get on all fours” while the two were alone in the supervisor’s office, and touched Ms. Flores’s breast, amongst other things.
Ms. Flores alleged that after she complained up the chain of command about the sexual harassment, she suffered retaliation. Koelsch’s management threatened her job and told her to keep silent, that the supervisor who harassed her wasn’t going anywhere, and as to Ms. Flores, that the company would “sure hate to lose her.” Koelsch never properly investigated Ms. Flores’s complaints and allowed her supervisor to continue the conduct even after Ms. Flores complained. When she complained again about Koelsch’s failure to properly respond to her first complaint as well as the continued harassment from her supervisor, she was terminated.
Ms. Flores stated: “After what happened to me, I felt betrayed and completely lost trust in the system. It was not until I reached out to the EEOC and the Blankenship Law Firm that I finally felt heard. This should not happen to anyone. I finally feel that the system actually worked, and I hope this makes other women more willing to come forward with complaints.”
Sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as retaliation for opposing such conduct, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Prosecution through private counsel subjected Koelsch Senior Communities to a potential jury verdict that would have included punitive damages under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the broader protection and damages afforded by Washington law.
“Whether it is a memory care facility or movie studio, women must no longer suffer from sexual bias, innuendo, or harassment without justice or recourse under the law,” said attorney Scott Blankenship. “Here, it was critically important to Ms. Flores that Koelsch agree to take positive preventive measures to protect employees in the future. Without this willingness, this case would not have resolved short of a jury verdict.”
The Blankenship Law Firm, PLLC, is an AV-rated law firm located in downtown Seattle with lawyers licensed in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The firm’s practice emphasizes employment law, including class actions representing employees in all phases of negotiation and litigation. More information is available online at www.blankenshiplawfirm.com.