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Federal agency sues Spokane Valley HVAC company for sexual harassment

The EEOC filed charges Air Control Heating & Electric, Inc. claiming the company permitted its top executive to sexually harass female employees despite notices.

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — An HVAC company based in Spokane Valley is facing federal sexual harassment charges.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed charges on Tuesday against Air Control Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., which does business as Air Control Heating & Electric, Inc. The lawsuit alleges that Maxim Johnston, the founder, owner and president of Air Control, “sexually harassed female employees on a near-daily basis since 2010.”

The EEOC said Johnston’s behavior included, “offensive graphic comments and sexually explicit innuendoes, touching women without their consent, unwanted remarks about their bodies, requests to wear more revealing clothing, leering, and offering tickets to a nearby strip club. He also repeatedly stated that female employees did not belong in the building trades because of their sex.”

According to the lawsuit, the company’s managers did not do enough to stop the harassment, despite multiple reports.

The EEOC said that Air Control hired an HR expert, which criticized Johnston’s behavior and compared the workplace culture to a “sewer.” Despite the expert’s report, the federal agency states the company’s directors “allowed him [Johnston] to continue his sexual harassment unabated, causing one female employee to quit.”

The lawsuit seeks lost wages, compensation for emotional distress, damages on behalf of the class of female employees, and training on how to combat sexual harassment.

The company told KREM 2 News it disputes the claims and "look[s] forward to having our day in court."

The EEOC is asking current and former employees who have information about sexual harassment at Air Control Heating & Electric to contact lead attorney May Che at (206) 576-3022 or through email: aircontrol@eeoc.gov.

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