Geneva Store Management Allowed Associate to Subject Female Employees to a Hostile Work Environment Based on Sex for Years, Federal Agency Charged
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Walmart Stores East, LP will pay $410,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Com¬mis¬sion (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, from 2014 to 2018 a male employee of Walmart’s store in Geneva, N.Y., regularly made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to female co-workers and touched female co-workers without their consent. The EEOC alleged that Walmart management knew of the conduct for years, including having received written complaints.
The EEOC charged that the male employee regularly made vulgar comments about the bodies of female employees, including commenting on female co-workers’ breasts and buttocks. The EEOC further alleged that the male employee subjected female workers to unwanted touchings, including pressing his crotch against a co-worker’s buttocks. According to the EEOC’s complaint, he told one female co-worker, “I can’t wait to see you in these,” referring to thong underwear. The EEOC also alleged that the male employee repeatedly invited female employees to hang out alone with him despite being rejected, and graphically stated that he wanted to have sex with female co-workers who had told him they were not interested.
The federal agency further charged that one female employee, whom was harassed for years and who reported the employee’s misconduct to management multiple times, was forced to resign when Walmart management failed to stop his harassment and instead advised her to “stand up” for herself and put her “big girl panties on.”
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 6:19-cv-06718-CJS-MWP) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.
A three-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Charles J. Siragusa, provides for $175,000 in monetary damages for the young woman who was forced to resign and $235,000 for a class of victims. The decree enjoins Walmart from creating a hostile work environment based on sex in the future. The decree requires training for employees at Walmart’s Geneva store to prevent future harassment and to ensure that workers understand their right to be free from sexual harassment on the job, and also requires targeted one-on-one training for the supervisor who had been the Geneva store manager at the time. The decree further requires Walmart to provide periodic reports to the EEOC regarding any future allegations of sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment causes damage in any workplace, but it is especially pernicious when it affects multiple victims over several years,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “We are pleased that Walmart has agreed to take steps to make its workplace safer and more respectful, including by educating its management employees about their responsibility to prevent and eradicate sexual harassment.”
“The EEOC will always seek to eliminate workplace sexual harassment wherever it finds it,” said Judy Keenan, director of the New York District Office. “The EEOC is pleased that the parties were able to resolve this lawsuit at an early stage and that Walmart will compensate the victims and institute procedures to prevent future discrimination.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The agency’s Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.