The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday that it has charged Tim Dahle Imports Inc. with sexually harassing female employees at the company's Sandy dealership.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City also alleges that the company fired a woman for complaining about sexual discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, the problems occurred at the company's Nissan dealership in Sandy. The lawsuit said Kory Larsen and other female employees were subjected to unwelcome sexual comments and conduct. The EEOC also charged that the company retaliated against Larsen by firing her because she complained about the harassment.

The dealership's owner, Tim Dahle, denied the accusations.

"We have done nothing wrong," he said Thursday. "It will be borne out in court. Our attorneys are working with the EEOC to get it resolved."

The EEOC said the conduct outlined in the lawsuit violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation.

The agency said it filed the lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

"Although no one should have to endure unwanted sexual conduct and comments in the workplace, sexual harassment continues to be a problem," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office. "We are particularly concerned about the large number of charges of discrimination we receive concerning employers in the auto-sales industry."

Chester V. Bailey, district director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, said that when any management official has knowledge of this kind of harassment, he or she has an affirmative duty to remedy the situation and refrain from retaliation. "We did an investigation and found that Tim Dahle Imports shirked its obligations on all counts in this case," he said.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the company to give Larsen and the other women back pay with interest, along with compensatory and punitive damages.

The commission's lawsuit also seeks an injunction that would require the company to institute and carry out policies, practices and programs to provide equal employment opportunities for women and refrain from engaging in any further discriminatory practices.

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