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SunTrust settles sexual harassment charges against branch manager for $300,000


SunTrust Banks Inc. has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charges that a branch manager at its Sarasota, Florida, bank had subjected three female employees to sexual harassment that included trapping a 20-year-old female behind the teller counter with his body, the agency said.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based bank said in a statement that the allegations remain contested.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that the ongoing harassment by the branch manager also included telling a women she should wear a bathing suit to work, frequently caressing and grabbing a female employee, and regularly staring at women’s breasts, the agency said Tuesday in a statement. The agency said 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 numerous complaints by female employees to the assistant branch manager and other SunTrust branch managers were ignored, and that SunTrust failed to take sufficient action to stop the harassment once its human resources department got involved.

The EEOC said during the course of its investigation into the discrimination charges, the branch manager voluntarily resigned but was subsequently rehired by the bank.

The company was charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as Florida state laws. Under terms of the settlement, in addition to paying the $300,000, the bank has agreed to conduct annual live training for its managers and human resources personnel, among other provisions.

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

The bank said in a statement, “SunTrust has a strong commitment to a harassment-free work environment. This was an isolated matter, and the accused team member is no longer employed at the company.

“In accordance with our policy, this matter was promptly and fully investigated when made known to SunTrust. The allegations remain contested, however we are pleased to have reached an agreement to resolve this matter.”