A heating, ventilation and air conditioning company whose owner allegedly sexually harassed female employees has agreed to pay $361,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit.
The EEOC said Tuesday that Maxim Johnston, founder, owner and president of Spokane Valley, Washington-based Air Control Heating & Air Conditioning Inc., had allegedly subjected female employees to sexual harassment on a nearly daily basis since 2010 and repeatedly stated that female employees did not belong in the building trades because of their sex.
The EEOC charged that his behavior included offensive, graphic comments and sexually explicit innuendoes; touching women without their consent; unwanted remarks about their bodies; requests to wear more-revealing clothing; leering; and offering tickets to a nearby strip club.
The agency said corporate directors, who were also company managers, failed to take prompt or effective actions to stop the harassment despite multiple reports of such conduct over the years.
Under the five-year consent decree settling the suit, Air Control, which has about 40 employees, will pay $361,000 to seven claimants and full back pay to a female employee who was forced to quit.
The settlement decree also requires the company to retain an independent consultant to assist it in developing anti-discrimination policies and procedures, among other provisions.
EEOC Seattle Field Office Director Elizabeth Cannon said in a statement, “Regardless of whether it happens to women in a male-dominated industry or anywhere else, sex discrimination and harassment in the workplace is illegal. Employers who allow sexually hostile work environments violate the law.”
An attorney for the company had no comment.