Retailer Fred Meyer Settles Second EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Federal Agency Obtains Nearly Half  Million for Abused Oak Grove Female Employees

PORTLAND, Ore. - National grocery chain Fred  Meyer will pay $487,500 to seven workers employed at its Oak  Grove, Ore., store and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment  lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the  agency announced today.   This is the  company's second such settlement in just over five years; in late 2008, the  company also settled an EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of three  Oregon City store employees for $485,000. 

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, female employees at Fred Meyer's Oak  Grove store in Milwaukie, Ore., were sexually harassed by the same  customer from at least 2007.  The man  visited the store almost daily, and often several times a day, and he would  make lewd comments to both employees and customers, in addition to grabbing  employees, cornering them, touching their breasts, and pulling one employee  onto his lap. 

The EEOC said the numerous complaints by female employees to store  management and security were dismissed as "hearsay," even after store security  videotaped the customer reaching over the checkout counter to grab a female  associate.  Employees were instructed  that the customer could not be excluded from the store unless the security  department personally witnessed him engaging in the offensive behavior, a  management decision that forced many female employees to suffer his harassment  for years.

"I was terrorized at work and so stressed worrying about what would happen when this customer came into the  store," said Victoria Settle, a Fred Meyer employee and one of the women who  brought the case to the EEOC's attention.  "I am grateful for the EEOC and so happy this  is over.  All I ever wanted was for my  employer to do something to stop him, and I hope that this settlement means  Fred Meyer will not let anything like this happen again."

Title VII of the  Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment and requires employers to  take prompt action to investigate and to stop the behavior after they receive  complaints.  After first attempting to  reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., Civil  Number 3:11-CV-00832-HA) in U.S.  District Court for the District of Oregon.   The case was set for trial starting June 5, 2014 before Federal District  Judge Haggerty, who also presided over the Oregon City lawsuit before it  settled.  As before, Judge Haggerty has  ordered a court-enforceable consent decree requiring Fred Meyer to revamp its  policies, train its staff, and report to the EEOC future complaints of sexual  harassment. 

EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo said, "We don't see the same  legal claims against the same employer in the same area very often.  We filed this case just months after the last  consent decree expired.  But the EEOC  will take up this fight again and again if that is what's needed to combat recurrent  sexual harassment."

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado noted,  "Employers are responsible for ensuring a harassment-free workplace for their  employees, regardless if the harasser is a co-worker, manager or customer.  There should be no tolerance for repeat  offenders and serial harassers."

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and  investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC's  Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Fred Meyer Stores, Inc. is a nationwide grocery chain with over 30,000  employees and 131 stores in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.  Fred Meyer is a wholly owned subsidiary of  the Kroger Company, whose fiscal sales in 2013 totaled $98 billion dollars and  employs more than 375,000 employees nationally.   The Kroger Company is listed as one of the five largest retailers in the  world.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) | Attorney Advertising

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