Washington state resort owner investigated second time by EEOC for sexual harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) opened a second investigation into resort owner Perfil “Pete” Cam on May 20, 2019, according to an article in The Columbian.

According to legal documents, Cam subjected female employees of Bonneville Hot Springs Inc. and Carson Hot Springs Resort LLC to numerous types of sexual advances, including unwanted kisses, hugs, rubbing, touching their breasts and pressing against them, in some cases with his erect penis. He also made lewd sexual comments, propositioned them sexually and made remarks about their bodies and clothes.

The complaint filed in the US District Court in Tacoma specifically names female employee Holly Nelson but was filed on behalf of all female employees at the two resorts. Nelson left her position as a massage therapist at Bonneville Hot Springs Resort in 2016 to escape the unwanted sexual harassment, she states in a lawsuit she filed in January in Skamania County Circuit Court. The descriptions of treatment detailed in Nelson’s lawsuit dovetail with those described in the EEOC complaint filed this year.

The EEOC previously investigated the two resorts and Cam in 2008. In EEOC vs. Bonneville Hot Springs, Inc. six female employees filed complaints of sex discrimination against the company and its owner, Cam, and the Food and Beverage manager, Kenneth Favela. Three of the six women filed complaints against Favela – Christine Sibbert, Heather Gibbons and Kista Larson.

That case resulted in a $470,000 award to the plaintiffs in the sexual harassment and retaliation case. That case uncovered rampant sexual harassment in the resorts that extended beyond Cam and Favela, including the executive chef of Bonneville.

Even EEOC officials referred to the level of sexual misconduct in the 2008 case as “shocking.”

In an interview after the court decision, Mike Baldonado, acting director of the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office called the Bonneville behavior “inexcusable,” but felt sure that the findings and punishment of the EEOC case would end the problems.

“The treatment that these women experienced by the owner was inexcusable. I am glad the EEOC was able to ensure that the company has protections in place so this will not happen in the future,” Baldonado said in a 2008 interview.

The 2019 case alleges that Cam continues the same practices. He regularly grabs “female employees’ hands, arms, and/or wrists and did not let go,” the women said in the complaint. In one woman’s experience he “pressed his erect penis up against” her. He caresses and pulls female employees’ hair. According to the court filing, Cam avoids having the behavior caught on the resorts’ video surveillance cameras by requiring its female employees to meet him in areas of the resort not covered by the surveillance system.

One employee interviewed by The Columbian, the housekeeping manager for the Carson Hot Springs resort, Katarina Molodih said she had not observed Cam behaving in such a way. She has worked at the resort for two years.

“It’s not true. Pete’s a nice guy. He’s just a good guy. I don’t believe it. I’ve worked here for more than two years and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Some employees of the resort knew of the original complaint and had expected it to provide a safer set of working conditions. The current, second EEOC complaint seeks a jury trial. The current plaintiffs want a verdict that forces the resort to enforce EEOC policies to provide a workplace free of sexual harassment and that provides equal opportunity. Nelson’s lawsuit seeks monetary compensation for the female employees of the two resorts for “emotional pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.” It also asks for back pay with interest.