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PRESS RELEASE
7-13-11

Fred Meyer Stores Sued By EEOC For Sexual Harassment

Agency Alleges Grocery Store Failed to Stop Regular Customer From Harassing Female Employees

PORTLAND, ORE.  – Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., a grocery chain employing more than 30,000, violated  federal law when it failed to stop a customer from sexually harassing several  female employees, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged  in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, female employees at Fred  Meyer’s Oak Grove store in Milwaukie,  Ore., were sexually harassed by a  customer who visited the store almost daily, and often several times a day,  since at least 2007. He would sit by the  employee time clock in order to pull women onto his lap as they walked past to  punch in. He would also rub up against female  workers, giving unwanted hugs and groping their bodies, the EEOC said. When they protested, the customer would smirk  or make comments such as, “That’s what they’re there for,” indicating the  employee’s breasts.

Despite numerous complaints by the  staff, the EEOC said, Fred Meyer managers excused the customer’s offensive behavior  and dismissed it as nothing more than “hearsay,” even though the women were  giving firsthand accounts of their experiences.  The managers told employees that their reports were not actionable unless  witnessed by management or the loss prevention department.

Laura Morrow, a Fred Meyer employee  since 2002 and one of the women who brought the case to EEOC’s attention, said,  “I just want to see to it that this  doesn’t happen to anyone else. Fred  Meyer shouldn’t have let this happen to any of us in the first place. I reported this problem time and time again  and they didn’t do anything to protect me.”

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 to seek monetary damages on behalf of female employees, training on anti-discrimination  laws, posting of notices at the worksite and other measures to prevent any future  sexual harassment.

EEOC Regional Attorney William R.  Tamayo said, “The customer is not  always right. The law protects against harassment  in the workplace not only from supervisors and co-workers, but also from  non-employees such as customers, vendors, contractors and even delivery persons. Employers who fail to respond to reports of  sexual harassment with a prompt investigation and appropriate action must face  the legal consequences – which is why the EEOC is filing this lawsuit today.”

EEOC San Francisco District  Director Mike Baldonado added, “Fred Meyer’s failure to address the continued  harassment of its employees is inexcus­able.  This store received complaints almost on a daily basis about a regular  customer repeatedly touching and groping its female employees. Rather than applying its own sexual  harassment policy, Fred Meyer informed employees that nothing could be done  unless a manager or loss prevention personnel directly witnessed the harassment  -- a protocol usually designated for shoplifting scenarios and an utterly  insufficient response to employees’ complaints of sexual harassment.”

Fred Meyer has its headquarters in Portland, Ore., and 131  stores in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Fred Meyer is part of the Kroger Company, a  nationwide chain of retail stores including QFC, Ralphs, Fry’s, and others.

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