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EEOC Sues Forrest City Grocery for Sex Discrimination

Arkansas Grocery Distributor Denied Outside Sales Position to Female Employee, Paid Her Less Than Comparable Male Employees, Agency Says

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Forrest City Grocery Company, formerly known as Dixie Tobacco & Candy Company, violated federal law by denying a promotion to a qualified female employee because of her sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on September 29. The EEOC alleges that the Arkansas-based company discriminated against a clerical employee when the company failed to promote her to an outside salesperson position because of her gender, and refused to pay her what it paid male employees performing comparable duties.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Amanda McMillian worked as a clerical employee for the company’s Shaw, Mississippi location starting in April 1999. Throughout her employment, McMillian was assigned duties similar to that of outside salespersons. Upon learning about outside sales vacancies in 2007, McMillian applied for the positions, but was told the work was too dangerous and that she was needed in the office. Two males were eventually hired for the position. Forrest City also denied McMillian’s request to pay her what it was paying males who performed comparable work.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of sex. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Forrest City Grocery Company, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi (Delta Division), Civil Action No. 2:10-cv-00166-MPM-SAA) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for McMillian, as well as injunctive relief.

“Remarkably, some employers still believe women should be excluded from certain types of work simply because of their gender,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, EEOC District Director for the Birmingham District Office. “This is not just bad business, it is illegal.”

“Employees should be hired based on their skills and abilities, and not on gender stereotypes,” said Regional Attorney C. Emanuel Smith of the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “The EEOC will vigorously enforce the rights of women to compete on an equal basis with men for promotions and other benefits of employment.”

The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Alabama, Mississippi and Northern Florida, with an Area Office in Jackson, Miss., and a Local Office in Mobile, Ala.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at