$725,000 Settlement Against Precious Metals Dealer to Resolve Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

 
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
 
A federal judge entered a consent decree approving a $725,000 settlement against Federal Way, Washington-based precious metals dealer Northwest Territorial Mint to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC was able to prosecute its suit on behalf of five former employees even after the mint filed for Chapter 11, and the Bankruptcy Court has authorized the trustee handling the mint's business matters to enter into the settlement.

The EEOC alleged that owner Ross Hansen sexually harassed female employees to a point where one worker was forced to quit and other female victims were fired. The EEOC investigation found that Hansen repeatedly made lewd sexual comments to and about his female employees, including telling offensive sexual jokes, using derogatory terms for female genitalia, and commenting on women's breast sizes and body shapes.

Sexual harassment and forced resignation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Northwest Territorial Mint, LLC, Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-01554) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Seattle Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Because the mint is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization proceedings, the settlement entitles the EEOC to bring the $725,000 claim against the mint in bankruptcy court, and the EEOC class member claims will depend on the outcome of the bankruptcy proceeding.

In addition to the monetary component of the settlement, Northwest Territorial Mint agreed to completely overhaul its sexual harassment policy and practices. It will also report to EEOC on settlement compliance, including complaints of sexual harassment against Hansen, for six years if Hansen owns part of the reorganized company, is a board member, or is employed in any capacity by the entity or successor to the mint.
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