Female Employees at Sarasota Branch Subjected to Repeated Physical and Verbal Harassment, Complaints Ignored, Federal Agency Charged

TAMPA, Fla. – SunTrust Bank, a large regional bank, will pay $300,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged the company with subjecting three female employees at a Sarasota, Fla., branch to sexual harassment by the branch manager.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, SunTrust’s branch manager subjected the women to ongoing harassment, including repeatedly trapping a 20-year-old female behind the teller counter with his body; telling a woman she should wear a bathing suit to work; regularly staring at women’s breasts; and frequently caressing and grabbing a female employee. He would also stare at, and comment on, the breasts and bodies of SunTrust’s female clients who came into the branch.

The EEOC said that numerous complaints by female employees to the assistant branch manager and other SunTrust branch managers were ignored, and once human resources became involved, SunTrust failed to take sufficient action to stop the harassment. Further, during the course of EEOC’s investigation into the discrimination charges, the branch manager voluntarily resigned, and was subsequently rehired by SunTrust.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as Florida state laws. The EEOC filed this suit (EEOC v. SunTrust Bank, Case 8:12-cv-01325-VMC) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida following an investigation, and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Two of the women intervened in the EEOC’s lawsuit, and raised additional claims of discrimination under federal and state law. The plaintiff-intervenors are represented by private attorneys Christine Sensenig of the Sensenig Law Firm, P.A. and Helena Downyok and P.J. Downyok of the Downyok Law Firm, P.A.

Under the consent decree resolving the EEOC’s claims, besides the monetary relief, SunTrust Bank has agreed to conduct annual, live training for its managers and human resources personnel in Southwest Florida, which the EEOC will be able to watch by live streaming video. SunTrust will also post a notice about the lawsuit in its Southwest Florida branches, and report future sexual harassment complaints to the EEOC.

“It is critical for employers to take prompt action once an employee reports sexual harassment,” said EEOC Tampa Director Georgia Marchbanks. “The women in this case expected to work in a professional environment and should not have been subjected to ongoing harassment by their supervisor.”

EEOC Miami Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg added, “We were able to achieve this important resolution after several recent favorable court rulings. We trust that the additional training and requirement to report sexual harassment claims to the EEOC over the course of the three-year consent decree will improve the work environment for all SunTrust employees and emphasize a commitment to preventing future discrimination.”

According to company information, Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank has approximately 1,500 branches and 2,250 ATMs located primarily in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office’s jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.