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Monday, November 27, 2017
How Hawaii Civil Rights Commission Covers Up Sex Harassment Reports
By Andrew Walden @ 9:41 PM :: 3772 Views :: Ethics, Law Enforcement, Politicians

by Andrew Walden

The headline blares, “Secrecy surrounds sexual harassment settlements in Congress.”  In California two legislators have been accused of sex harassment and one has resigned.  But what about Hawaii Legislators?  Are they sexless drones?  Senator Mazie Hirono tells NBC Meet the Press: “I’ve been propositioned by teachers, by my colleagues, you name it.”  Certainly there must be something to report? 

It turns out Hawaii taxpayers may have been soaked as much as $200K in settlements which keep sex harassment quiet.

Hawaii’s so-called Civil Rights Commission has been effectively suppressing sex-harassment claims against elected officials, political appointees and staffers for over a decade—by keeping them out of court and steering complainants towards a secretive settlement process which puts money in victim’s pockets in exchange for public silence.  As the HCRC website explains: “Pursuant to HRS § 378-3(10) an employee may file a direct civil action for sexual harassment…. While the statutes allow these direct civil actions in these cases, only a small number are filed; the great majority still file complaints with the HCRC.”

This secrecy gives members of the HCRC special knowledge about the misdeeds of elected officials.  It will be interesting to see whether Kim Coco Iwamoto—a holdover member of the HCRC now running for Lt Governor--receives any politically inexplicable endorsements.

Earlier this year, activist Mililani Trask exposed a previously hidden $50,000 payment by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to cover up a 2015 sex harassment complaint against Trustee Peter Apo. The OHA case apparently sidestepped the HCRC process entirely.

HCRC annual reports provide the only public record of sex harassment complaints ‘settled’ by the HCRC process.  From 2001 to 2016 only one defendant is actually identified by name—a case involving a conservative activist:

On August 26, 2014, the Commission issued a final decision and order in William D. Hoshiio, on Behalf of the Complaint filed by Kay Lorraine Bate v. Research Institute for Hawaii.USA, Docket No. 13-001-E-RH-SH-R. The Commission held the Research Institute for Hawaii, USA (“RIH”), and its CEO Christopher Damon Haig, liable for religious and sexual harassment….”

In other cases, defendants and their organizations are identified with vague terms such as “private company.”  In some descriptions, there is no characterization of the defendant’s employment at all.  The HCRC annual reports also do not catalogue every case.  They provide only a few highlights from each fiscal year.  The vast majority of cases do not leave even the slightest public trace of their existence.

The number of workplace sex harassment cases handled by HCRC has fluctuated over the years:

FY           Cases
2001-02    54
2002-03    52
2003-04    50
2004-05    41
2005-06    37
2006-07    41
2007-08    55
2008-09    47
2009-10    32
2010-11    24
2011-12    25
2012-13    35
2013-14    33
2014-15    22
2015-16    10

Here are all of the sex-harassment mentions from each year’s annual report.  Based on the wording, complaints marked “***” could possibly be against a political official:

2001-02 – 54 Sex Harassment Cases

“only a small number of cases are brought to administrative hearing and result in final Commission decisions”

***“A case alleging same-sex harassment in employment was settled through mediation for $12,000, a reference letter, and adoption of an antidiscrimination policy.”

***“An employment discrimination case involved allegations of sexual harassment by a supervisor. The employer and the alleged harasser agreed to make payment of $30,000 to the complainant for general damages. The employer agreed to reaffirm and retrain all employees on the policy and applicable law regarding sexual harassment and sex discrimination. The individual respondent also agreed to attend anti-harassment training at his own expense and submit a letter of apology to the complainant.”

2002-03 -- 52 Sex Harassment Cases

A complainant alleged that she was sexually harassed during her employment as an accounting clerk for a national retail chain store. The alleged harassment was by a company officer and was verbal and physical in nature. Although she complained to her supervisor and human resources department, no corrective action was taken. The complainant then resigned due to the hostile and offensive working environment. In mediation, the parties agreed to a settlement of $7,000, a letter of acknowledgement of the complainant's painful experience, and posting of the company's sexual harassment policies.

2003-04 -- 50 Sex Harassment Cases

A female employee with a large private company alleged sexual harassment (verbal, visual, and physical) by a co-worker, creating a hostile and offensive work environment. Complainant was also allegedly subjected to retaliation after reporting the harassment and was constructively discharged from her position of dispatcher/Receptionist, earning $9.00/hour. In private mediation, a monetary settlement was reached of $28,000.

2004-05 -- 41 Sex Harassment Cases

A complainant, who was a cashier at a restaurant, alleged she was subjected to verbal and physical sexual harassment by her manager. A settlement was reached for $22,500 with the employer in a case mediated at the Mediation Center of the Pacific (MCP).

A female cashier/counter person in a food industry company alleged that she suffered from physical and other kinds of sexual harassment by a high-level manager. She had been hired three months earlier and alleged a constructive discharge due to the hostile, offensive, and intimidating working environment. She settled in mediation at the MCP for $47,000.

***In separate complaints involving sexual harassment against a common employer, the complaints were settled for payment of $80,000 to each complainant and affirmative relief, including training for the employer’s staff in compliance with non-discrimination policies.

***In a case alleging sexual harassment, settlement included payment in the sum of $12,000, adoption of anti-discrimination employment policies in compliance with Chapter 378, and training for the employer’s staff in compliance with such non-discrimination policies.

2005-06 -- 37 Sex Harassment Cases

***In a case alleging sexual harassment, settlement included payment in the sum of $10,000, adoption of non-discrimination employment policies and training for the employer’s staff on such policies.

Contested Case Hearings -- During fiscal year 2005-2006, five cases (one involving sexual harassment and four involving sex discrimination) were docketed for hearing. All were settled.

2006-07 -- 41 Sex Harassment Cases

***In a case alleging sexual harassment, settlement included payment of $25,000, adoption of anti-discrimination employment policies and training for the employer’s staff on compliance with such policies.

2007-08 -- 55 Sex Harassment Cases

(No examples in report)

2008-09 -- 47 Sex Harassment Cases

***In a case alleging sexual harassment by a supervisor, the HCRC found cause and obtained relief for the complainant in the form of a letter of reference and payment of $150,000, which included Complainant’s attorneys’ fees, in addition to affirmative relief.

***In a case alleging sexual harassment by a supervisor, the HCRC found cause and obtained relief for the complainant in the form of payment of $200,000 which included Complainant’s attorneys’ fees, in addition to affirmative relief.

2009-10 -- 32 Sex Harassment Cases

(No examples in report)

2010-11 -- 24 Sex Harassment Cases

The primary bases of discrimination of the 20 settlements were as follows: Sex -- 11 (including 8 pregnancies and 2 sexual harassment); Disability -- 4; Arrest & Court Record -- 2; Age -- 2; Ancestry -- 1. Many of the completed mediations also included charges on other protected bases. 13 mediated settlements were cases dual-filed with the EEOC.

2011-12 -- 25 Sex Harassment Cases

The primary bases of discrimination of the 14 settlements were as follows: Sex -- 4 (including 1 pregnancy and 2 sexual harassment); Retaliation -- 4; Disability -- 3; National Origin -- 2; Race -- 1. Many of the completed mediations also included charges on other protected bases. 12 mediated settlements were cases dual-filed with the EEOC.

2012-13 --  35 Sex Harassment Cases

The primary bases of discrimination of the 41 settlements were as follows: Sex -- 4 (including 3 pregnancy and 4 sexual harassment); Disability -- 9; Retaliation -- 4; Arrest and Court Record -- 3; Sexual Orientation -- 3; Age -- 3; Marital Status -- 2; Ancestry -- 1; Color -- 1; National Origin -- 1. Many of the completed mediations also included charges on other protected bases. 28 mediated settlements were cases dual-filed with the EEOC.

2013-14 -- 33 Sex Harassment Cases

The primary bases of discrimination of the 17 settlements were as follows: Disability -- 5; Sex -- 5 (including 2 pregnancy and 1 sexual harassment);  Ancestry -- 3; Age -- 2; National Origin -- 1; Race -- 1. Many of the completed mediations also included charges on other protected bases. 15 mediated settlements were cases dual-filed with the EEOC.

In an employment case involving sexual harassment and retaliation, the complaint settled for $30,000, a number of changes to company policies, and training.

2014-15 -- 22 Sex Harassment Cases

The primary bases of discrimination of the 15 settlements were as follows: Sex -- 10 (including 4 pregnancy and 4 sexual harassment); Disability -- 2; Race -- 2; Ancestry -- 1. Many of the completed mediations also included charges on other protected bases.

***Two employment cases alleged that a complainant was subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, followed by discrimination based on sex and retaliation after she reported the sexual harassment internally. The HCRC investigated the sexual harassment case and issued a Notice of Cause. Thereafter, both cases were settled for $140,000, nine months of COBRA payments, and a neutral job reference for the complainant; as well as non-discrimination training for the respondent’s managers, supervisors, and employees.

On August 26, 2014, the Commission issued a final decision and order in William D. Hoshiio, on Behalf of the Complaint filed by Kay Lorraine Bate v. Research Institute for Hawaii.USA, Docket No. 13-001-E-RH-SH-R. The Commission held the Research Institute for Hawaii, USA (“RIH”), and its CEO Christopher Damon Haig, liable for religious and sexual harassment….

2015-2016 -- 10 Sex Harassment Cases

The primary bases of discrimination of the 30 settlements were as follows:   Disability- 12; Sex- 5 (specifically, 3 pregnancy and 2 sexual harassment); Age- 4; Arrest and Court Record - 3; Religion - 2; Retaliation - 2; National Origin - 1; and Race - 1. Many of the completed mediations also included charges on other protected bases.

---30---

HCRC Annual Report FY2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15  2015-2016

HCRC: FIND A REPORT

HCRC: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Link: Honolulu EEOC Office

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