Black woman repeatedly harassed at Tacoma Medical Center. She’ll get $140K settlement

The Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington agreed to pay $140,000 to an African American employee at the Tacoma Medical Center after an investigation found human resources failed to investigate complaints or stop racial harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported Tuesday.

According to the result of a racial harassment complaint filed by the EEOC, “Kaiser permitted an African American employee to be harassed by her coworker’s repeated use of a version of the n-word” and failed to take measures to stop the harassment despite repeated reports sent to the company’s human resources department, an EEOC news release said.

The conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to investigate and take steps to prevent racial harassment in the workplace.

In an emailed statement to the News Tribune Tuesday, the company said, “Kaiser Permanente has a deep and abiding commitment to racial equity and we hold ourselves accountable to be responsive to any allegation of discrimination. We are on a journey to strengthen our policies and eliminate bias, discrimination and racism in our workplaces and care settings. Through this settlement, we will be implementing additional training and processes to expedite investigations when claims of discrimination are raised and together with our employees, we will continue to make Kaiser Permanente a safe and inclusive work environment.”

The EEOC filed its lawsuit against Kaiser in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington after failing to reach a pre-litigation settlement, according to the EEOC release.

Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, Kaiser will pay $140,000 to the employee and will retain a consultant to review its Equal Employment Opportunity policies and procedures, the release said.

“Kaiser will also adopt and disseminate written expectations holding management and human resources staff accountable for EEO compliance and provide additional training to Tacoma Medical Center employees, managers and to HR employees responding to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington employees,” the press release said.

“It is not enough to have a workplace policy against racial harassment,” said Nancy Sienko, district director for the EEOC’s San Francisco District in the news release. “The law requires employers to follow through on that policy by thoroughly investigating harassment complaints and taking effective action to end a hostile work environment.”