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Davis Typewriter facing sexual harassment suit

MINNEAPOLIS — A Worthington office furniture and office supply company is facing a federal lawsuit as a result of a sexual harassment claim.

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Davis Typewriter Co. violated federal civil rights laws by permitting its operations manager to create a sexually hostile working environment against one of its female employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

According to an EEOC press release issued Tuesday, the lawsuit claims that between March and July 2010, Davis Typewriter Co.’s operations manager commandeered the company’s security camera system to stream hours of footage of a former female employee’s breasts and body onto his office computer. The EEOC’s investigation indicated that when the employee learned of her manager’s surreptitious surveillance, and notified another manager and Davis Typewriter’s owner, the company failed to take sufficient steps to correct such behavior, or prevent it from occurring again in the future.

As a result of the company’s failure to take reasonable measures to correct the harassment or prevent it from happening again, the employee was forced to quit, the lawsuit adds.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief that will require Davis Typewriter to adopt an effective sexual harassment prevention policy that complies with federal law and will seek back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the former employee.

John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, which includes Minnesota, said in the press release that the EEOC’s administrative investigation preceding the lawsuit revealed a particularly egregious case of sexual harassment.

“Security cameras in the workplace are almost as common as computers,” Rowe said. “No one should ever have to worry that this constant monitoring is being used to satisfy their boss’s sexual fantasy.”

John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, added, “It appears from our investigation — and we intend to prove it in court — that Davis Typewriter learned about this man’s unlawful behavior, but refused to take the steps necessary to assure (the victim) that this behavior would not ever happen again, or that they would provide a safe, harassment-free workplace going forward. Employers who fail to take reasonable, simple measures to protect victims from further sexual harassment do so at their peril.”