EEOC Sues Wal-Mart for Sexual Harassment, Retaliation and Disability Discrimination

Developmentally  Disabled Walmart Employee in Akron Store Fired for Complaining About  Sexual Touching, Federal Agency Charges

CLEVELAND  - Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. violated federal law by allowing a male employee at  an Akron Walmart store to subject a developmentally disabled female co-worker to  sexually inappropriate conduct and then retaliating against her for her  opposition to the sexual misconduct, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

The  EEOC said Jamie Wells, who is developmentally disabled, worked at the company as  an associate in the Akron store's lawn & garden department for more than 11  years.  The EEOC said that from about  April 2005 through Jan. 7, 2011, the store allowed a male coworker to sexually  harass Wells, including sexual touching Wells while on the store's premises.  Further, although store management officials were  aware of the harassment, they failed to take prompt or effective action to  remedy the sexually hostile work environment.   Instead, the EEOC said, the store fired Wells three weeks after she complained  about the abusive conduct. 

Such  alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC also charged that the company  violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide  reasonable accommodations to Wells through adequate training, supervision, and  communication regarding its anti-harassment policies.   The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court  for the Northern District of Ohio (Case: 5:13-cv-00795)  after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its  conciliation process.  The agency seeks  injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages and lost wages and  benefits.

"Ms.  Wells' impairment made her particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment," said  Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office,  which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and portions of  New Jersey and Ohio.  "Once this Walmart  was put on notice of the harassment, it had a legal responsibility to take  immediate and appropriate action to stop the misconduct.  When an employer fails to do so, the EEOC  must and will hold that employer accountable."

Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., of Bentonville, Ark., operates Wal-Mart's  retail stores in the eastern United States.

Eliminating  policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising  their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the  EEOC's investigative or enforce­ment efforts, is one of six national priorities  identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).  The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting  employment discrimination. 

Further  information about the agency is available on its website at .


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