Rampant Sexual Harassment at HVAC Co.

EEOC Claims Rampant Sexual Harassment at HVAC Co.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission slapped a heating and air conditioning outfit with a lawsuit on Dec. 14th. The suit is claiming the company's owner routinely sexually harassed female workers for the past decade. In fact, the allegations claim that the Air Controls founder, owner and president Maxim Johnston, sexually harassed female employees on a nearly daily basis since 2010.

The EEOC's lawsuit said that Spokane Valley-based Air Control Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when its owner and president Maxim Johnston sexually harassed female employees by making lewd and misogynistic comments, as well as staring at them and subjecting them to unwanted touching.

"Women working in non-traditional trades and historically male-dominated industries are often the focus of workplace sexual harassment. The EEOC has made a priority of defending the civil rights of vulnerable workers and will seek the full extent of legal relief for any and all victims of sexual harassment," EEOC senior trial attorney May Che said in a statement.

The complaint details the experiences of two female former Air Control workers, who claimed that Johnston asked female employees to sit on his lap and slapped them on their backsides. In addition, he would purposely leave condoms and lubricant in areas the female employees would find them, the suit alleged.

The women made several complaints to Johnston, who would simply brush them off and tell them they needed to learn how to work with men, the EEOC said. Adding that one of the employees resigned in September 2019 because the harassment had grown intolerable.

Air Control hired a human resources consultant in December 2018 who called the workplace culture a "sewer" and criticized the tolerance of Johnston's behavior, according to the complaint. The HR consultant advised the HVAC company to provide sexual harassment training, but as of September 2021 no such training was implemented, the EEOC said.

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