Female Grocery Store Employees Were Sexually Harassed, Some Forced to Quit, Federal Agency Charged
PITTSBURGH – A Brownsville, Pa.-based grocery store will pay $95,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a federal sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that Country Fresh Market, LLC knowingly permitted the flagrant sexual harassment of women who worked in the meat department by the department manager at the company’s Brownsville store. The unwelcome harassment included physical touching and repeated sexual advances and comments.
Not only did company officials fail to take prompt action to stop the harassment, one company official threatened employees with termination for complaining about the abuse. Two women were forced to quit their jobs because of the intolerable situation, the EEOC said in the lawsuit.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment. Title VII also protects employees from retaliation for opposing sexual harassment or discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Civil Action Number 2:11-cv-01211) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $95,000 in monetary relief to the four class members, the three-year consent decree resolving the case includes injunctive relief barring Country Fresh from engaging in sexual harassment, sex discrimination or retaliation. Country Fresh must create and enforce a harassment and retaliation policy which includes complaint procedures and requires company officials, managers and supervisors to actively monitor the work environment to make sure it is free from harassment or retaliation. The grocery market is required to train all company owners, managers, supervisors and employees on Title VII and post a notice regarding the settlement. Country Fresh is also mandated to report to the EEOC regarding its investigation and handling of any future complaints of harassment or discrimination as well as its compliance with the consent decree.
“Employers must make sure that company officials, managers and supervisors take swift action to stop workplace harassment,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “This settlement is designed to protect all Country Fresh employees from the indignity of sexual harassment and to ensure that no employee is retaliated against for exercising his or her federally protected right to oppose this or any other form of discrimination.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.