The owner of Federal Way-based Northwest Territorial Mint was recently summoned for a federal lawsuit filed against him, alleging sexual harassment in the workplace.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the claims on Sept. 30 against Ross Hansen, the owner and founder of the largest private mint in the country. According to the suit, Hansen allegedly subjected three female employees to “lewd sexual comments, offensive jokes, derogatory terms for women, remarks on women’s breast sizes and body shapes, questions about intimate matters and screaming and name-calling.”
Patricia Hoffman, a former receptionist for the company from August 2013-June 2014, filed the complaint with the commission on June 11, 2014 after “yet another screaming incident against her by Hansen.” During her year there, she alleged Hansen held up his pet male dog along her desktop, exposing its genitals and then causing it to leave a trail of discharge.
The suit involved two other women, Jennifer Gue, a former warehouse manager from January 2008 to September 2014; and Lauren Bailie, a lead generation specialist from March to October 2014.
Gue said Hansen called her a “fat cow,” a “c***” and a “f****** bitch,” while Bailie said he asked her if she was planning on getting pregnant and if she would sleep with men of other ethnicities.
The women claimed Hansen also poked their bodies and touched their breasts.
The lawsuit says the company’s policy offers no way for reporting misconduct from the president and that the employees were too afraid to complain about him because he “bullied and insulted those who disagreed with him.”
But still, Hoffman reported the alleged sexual harassment on more than one occasion to her supervisor. However, she was told there was nothing that could be done.
“Sexual harassment laws apply to everyone in the workplace, especially the head of the company who has a duty to keep all employees safe,” said Nancy Sienko, Equal Employee Opportunity Commission, Seattle field director. “When harassers rely on their unchecked authority to abuse their victims and keep them silent, [the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] takes up the fight to ensure workers’ rights to have a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.”
The commission states sexual harassment and forced resignation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“[The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] seeks monetary damages and other affirmative relief for the three former employees, as well as injunctive relief to remedy and prevent future sexual harassment in the workplace,” according to a news release.
When asked to respond to the commission’s lawsuit, Hansen questioned whether one was ever filed.
“There’s absolutely no validity to this,” Hansen said, adding that sexual harassment complaints are typical when an employee is fired and looking for retaliation.
In fact, Hansen said the allegations are just that.
“We caught a lady stealing here,” he said. “There was a lady with her best friend and the lady who we caught stealing admitted to it and is being prosecuted for theft. Her best friend quit and filed a claim against us and we answered that but we’ve never been sued that we know of.”
The Mirror confirmed prosecutors have charged a woman named Stacy Butler with first-degree theft, a felony, for allegedly stealing precious metal worth more than $5,000 from Northwest Territorial Mint. According to charging documents, Butler was hired as a receptionist in May 2004 and was terminated in March 2014 after an auditor discovered she was defrauding the company with false orders.
“She confessed to the theft, went out and produced some of the stolen items out of her car. Her best friend was sitting next to her and was very upset when her best friend got fired,” Hansen said, noting the “best friend” was the one who filed the complaint with the commission. “It’s being vindictive.”
Hansen said the commission has “never met a sexual harassment case” they’ve turned down, and that they issue press releases in an attempt to get companies to settle out of court.
“I’m not going to settle with them, I’m going to take them to court,” he said. “… It makes me angry when you have an abuse by a federal agency like this.”
Northwest Territorial Mint employs around 300 people and operates in eight other locations.