Tour companies accused of 'egregious' sex harassment to pay out $570,000

Tour companies accused of 'egregious' sex harassment to pay out $570,000
Under a settlement, Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours will have to pay out $570,000 to sex harassment claimants and offer sexual harassment training. (Image: Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours and two related companies will pay $570,000 to settle a federal lawsuit, in which 18 male employees claimed they were victims of "egregious" sexual harassment for years.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the suit, announced the settlement Wednesday.

In its 2017 filing, the EEOC alleged that Leo Malagon, president of Discovering Hidden Hawaii Tours, Inc., harassed young male employees for more than a decade.

"He would ask them to expose their male private parts on them so that he could fondle and perform oral sex on them," said EEOC Honolulu Director Glory Gervacio. "And in turn, he would expose himself to them and show pornographic videos and photos of himself."

One claimant, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he worked for the company as a reservation and social manager when he was sexually harassed. It was his first job out of college.

He said that Malagon and a few friends came into the office after normal business hours when he was working.

"The interaction quickly became a little much, a lot much," he said.

Malagon then showed him pictures of his genitals and asked him out for lunch the next day. Feeling pressured, he said yes.

Before Malagon picked him up for lunch, he told a supervisor about the encounter with the photos and that he was uncomfortable going. The supervisor didn't take him seriously and even made sexual comments, according to the claimant.

"It's just lunch," the claimant said his supervisor told him.

He was soon picked up by Malagon for lunch and the president told him he needed to go home to change his pants. When the two came to the apartment, Malagon went into his bedroom and came out without any pants.

"I felt pressured to go along with things," the claimant said. The two went on to do sexual acts. When the employee went back to work, he told his supervisors. Again, his cry for help was not taken seriously.

"You're going to ruin your career if you go to the police," the supervisor would say. "Let's settle this without going to the police."

He was told that what he did was a good professional move.

Eventually, after making multiple complaints with higher management, he received a performance review that made it clear he was no longer wanted at the company. He quit.

According to Gervacio, others were also driven to quit by Malagon's harassment.

"Some acquiesced out of desperation for work, some simply quit," Gervacio said, about the male employees. "Several of the victims admit to still having difficulties coping with the trauma associated with sexual harassment sustained at DHT."

According to a news release, the decree requires Malagon to stop further involvement in the operations of the company.

Big Kahuna Luau Inc. and Hawaii Tours and Transportation Inc., lead by Malagon's wife, were also named in the suit.

The decree also requires sexual harassment training for company management.

"It's hard to say that I feel good about it," the anonymous claimant said, about the settlement. "It's been really difficult."

He said that having a first job experience at Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours has made it hard for him professionally. He does say, however, that he has grown from the experience and is happy to see the company will now be taking preventive measures.

"It teaches people in power that you can't manipulate people or impose their will sexually," he said.

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