IPI says it does not engage in unlawful employment practices

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THE United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint against Imperial Pacific International LLC and its parent company IPI Holdings in federal court for sexual harassment and unfair employment practices on behalf of Shirlene Loh, a VIP hostess, and other similarly aggrieved female employees.

In response, IPI denied all the allegations or inference in the complaint that it has engaged in any unlawful employment practices.

IPI said the court should rule in its favor and dismiss the complaint with prejudice.

IPI added that the court lacks jurisdiction and the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

EEOC has alleged that IPI was engaged in unlawful discrimination when it subjected the claimants to unwelcome physical and verbal sexual harassment by male patrons that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to adversely affect the terms and conditions of their employment.

“The hostile work environment became intolerable and caused many of the claimants to be constructively discharged,” stated the complaint.

The male patrons were high rollers and known to IPI, EEOC stated.

EEOC also alleged that the defendants subjected the claimants to unlawful retaliation by threatening to terminate those who engaged in protected activity; reduced their breaks; imposed additional work duties; and/or terminating/discharging them.

In addition, the lawsuit accused IPI of engaging in sex discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment by imposing different duties and assignments that women were forced to perform, but which men were not forced to perform as VIP service hosts.

EEOC named IPI, Best Sunshine International, and IPI Holdings Limited as defendants, and unnamed individuals who in some way or manner are responsible for the acts alleged in the complaint.

The lawsuit was filed by EEOC regional attorney Anna Y. Park in September 2019.

According to the complaint, charging party Shirlene Loh filed a charge of discrimination with EEOC alleging civil rights violations by IPI, including the allegations that other female employees were subject to harassment and discrimination, which EEOC investigated.

On Sept. 6, 2018, EEOC issued IPI a letter of determination finding reasonable cause to believe the defendants had violated the Civil Rights Act by subjecting Loh and a class of similarly situated individuals to sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sex-based harassment, assignment on the basis of sex, constructive discharge, and retaliation for engaging in a protected activity.

EEOC then invited IPI to join the commission “in informal methods of conciliation to endeavor to eliminate the discriminatory practices and provide appropriate relief.”

EEOC stated that it engaged in communications with IPI to provide the casino investor the opportunity to remedy the discriminatory practices described in the letter of determination.

But EEOC was unable to secure a conciliation agreement with IPI acceptable to the commission.

IPI, represented by attorney Kelley Butcher in answer to the complaint, denies that EEOC has engaged in good faith conciliation or otherwise satisfied the statutory conciliation prerequisite prior to issuing a notice of failure conciliation and filing of the lawsuit.

On Dec. 21, 2018, EEOC issued a notice of failure of conciliation.

According to EEOC, IPI since 2015 has been engaged in unlawful employment practices.

The lawsuit alleged that the sexual conduct was pervasive in the workplace as it occurred almost on a weekly basis between Dec. 2015 and Oct. 2016.

The unlawful employment practices of IPI were intentional and caused Loh, and other aggrieved individuals to suffer emotional distress; and it was done with malice or with reckless indifference, EEOC added.

EEOC has asked the court to issue a permanent injunction enjoining the defendants, their officers, and all persons in active concert or participation with each of them, from engaging in sexual harassment, retaliation, and any other employment practice which discriminates on the basis of sex.

EEOC also wants the court to issue an order directing the defendants to institute and carry out policies, practices, and programs to ensure that they would not engage in further unlawful employment practices.

In addition, the EEOC lawsuit sought compensation against IPI for compensation for past and future pecuniary losses, including appropriate back and front pay with pre-judgment interest on any lost income and benefits in the amount to be determined at trial, including for emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life.

EEOC said the court should order each defendant to pay the class of aggrieved individuals punitive damages “for its intentional, malicious, and reckless conduct.”

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