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Friday, June 22, 2012

SunTrust Bank Manager Accused of Sexual Harassment

By: Tommy Eden, Attorney
Alabama@Work

On June 14, 2012, suit was filed in federal district court in Florida alleging that SunTrust Banks, Inc. subjected three female employees to a sexually hostile work environment while they were employed at SunTrust’s Gulf Gate Branch in Sarasota, Florida. SunTrust is one of the nation’s largest providers of financial services, with approximately 28,000 employees nationwide and operates more than 1,665 branches.

The allegations stem from complaints made by three female employees against the branch manager, the highest on-site manager who supervised all branch employees and oversaw branch business and operations. Over a period of two years, these three female employees claim this branch manager subjected them, on an almost daily basis, to the following: 1) unwelcome lewd comments of a crude and sexual nature; 2) staring at certain parts of their bodies; 3) comments about breast implants; 4) lewd comments about their legs; 5) inquiries about their private sex lives; 6) comments about how he “loved Brazilian” women in a sexual tone; and 7) a request to wear a bathing suit to attract new customers. Further, the women complained of the Bank Manager’s nonconsensual physical touching of a sexual nature and offensive comments about Hooter’s waitresses who were also bank customers.

All three female employees claim they rejected and objected to the Branch Manager’s unwelcome sexually laced conduct and comments. The women also claim they made complaints to SunTrust’s Area Manager and to the HR Department, but the sexually hostile work environment continued. All three women then filed charges of sex discrimination with the EEOC. After conducting its investigation, the EEOC decided to file its own lawsuit against SunTrust on behalf of these three women. In that lawsuit, it is alleged that SunTrust took no action to stop the harassment or prevent it from reoccurring and that SunTrust’s conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit seeks: 1) a permanent injunction enjoining SunTrust Bank from subjecting its female employees to unwelcome, sexually graphic and vulgar sexual harassment; 2) an order that SunTrust establish anti-harassment policies, practices, and programs; and 3) to make whole these female employees through a monetary award.

Common Sense Counsel: The alleged conduct of the Branch Manager, if true, was rude, crude and unacceptable in any workplace. Sexual harassment claims represent the highest monetary risk for employers and prevention should be at the top of every employer’s Human Resource to do list. Prevention requires having a legally compliant anti-harassment policy, annual company wide employee training, hot lines for remote branches, prompt and effective investigation of complaints and taking proper remedial actions.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Capell & Howard, P.C., a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at tme@chlaw.com, 334-501-1540 or www.AlabamaAtWork.com. Alabama Immigration updates at www.ImmigrationAlabamaLaw.com.