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Two operators of the DoubleTree Hotel in Jefferson City have been charged with violating federal law when they allegedly allowed a male room inspector to sexually harass a female housekeeper, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, including sexual harassment. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois.

According to the EEOC, Vinca Enterprises Inc. and Puri Group of Enterprises Inc., which operate the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Jefferson City, failed to stop the room inspector from regularly making offensive sexual comments and engaging in unwanted physical contact with a female house­keeper.

Officials with the EEOC said such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting it.

The EEOC's suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. In the suit, EEOC officials allege management and an owner were aware of the inspector's unwelcome comments and behavior, but Vinca and PGEI failed to investigate or take appropriate action to stop the unlawful harassment and protect the employee.

The employee worked at the hotel as a housekeeper and laundry worker from 2008-15. The alleged incidents occurred in 2014 and early 2015 when the inspector reportedly threw the housekeeper on a bed, hit her in the arm as well as made sexually explicit comments.

The EEOC said the housekeeper filed her charges in June 2015. In September 2019, the EEOC investigated the housekeeper's charge and found cause to move forward with the investigation into Vinca and PGEI.

EEOC officials filed the lawsuit after they said they reportedly attempted to resolve the case through a conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking monetary relief, an order prohibiting future sexual harassment, employee training, and new policies and procedures on sexual harassment.

Attorney Katrina Morgan, of Clayton, represents Vinca and PGEI in this case. In a prepared statement, Morgan said, "The company maintains policies prohibiting any form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, and we categorically deny that any unlawful harassment or discrimination occurred.We will have no further comment on the litigation at this time."

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