Company Knew Assistant Manager Was Sending Female Employees Pornographic Messages but Took No Action for a Year, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT – Menards, Inc., which operates over 300 home improvement stores, will pay $25,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that a female employee at a Menards store in Wixom, Mich., complained that the assistant hardware department manager was sending her pornographic video clips and photos via text message. She showed some of the messages to another assistant manager, who in turn reported it to the department manager. The department manager chose neither to discipline his assistant manager nor launch an investigation.
Close to a year later, another female employee complained to the department manager about receiving similar messages. Because the department manager again did nothing, she complained directly to a general manager and showed him some of the messages. The assistant manager was finally investigated, admitted to the conduct and was terminated, one year after the initial complaint.
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment and discrimination because of sex. The EEOC filed suit against Menards in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Case No: 2:20-cv-11240) after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The 30-month consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires Menards to pay $25,000 to the two women who received the messages. Menards must also implement equitable relief, including live training at the Wixom location and training for managers involved who have since moved to other locations. In addition, Menards must report annually to the EEOC regarding any additional sexual harassment complaints and create a private space in which employees can speak to management and/or make complaints.
“Employers must understand that even lower-level department managers have a duty to report and stop sexual harassment when they become aware of it,” said Miles Uhlar, trial attorney for the Detroit Field Office. “Companies like Menards should bear this in mind as they select and train management candidates.”
The EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.