Sex-Based Misconduct Continued Despite Complaints to Manager, who Condoned and participated in Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
GILLETTE, Wyo. – HD Supply, Inc., one of nation’s largest wholesale suppliers of building materials, has agreed to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that a female office clerk was sexually harassed and ridiculed by a male co-worker at the company’s facility in Gillette, Wyo.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the co-worker allegedly groped the office clerk’s crotch and breasts, forcibly tried to kiss her and otherwise inappropriately touched her even in front of customers. The woman followed proper channels by complaining to a male branch manager. The manager, in turn, purportedly made a lewd gesture with his tongue, laughed about whether she had been kissed that day and allowed the sexual harassment to persist, according to the EEOC. After the internal complaint, the EEOC claims that the alleged victim suffered retaliatory harassment including verbal ridicule and pranks, such as placing dog feces in her car.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. HD Supply, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:09-CV-00048-ABJ) on March 11, 2009, in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. While the EEOC’s Denver Field Office conducted the investigation, the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office assumed the responsibility of negotiating the 18-month consent decree reached by both parties.
According to the consent decree settling the suit, the victim will receive monetary relief of $33,000. Further, the consent decree requires that HD Supply implement an internal policy, procedures and staff training at its Gillette facility to address sexual misconduct and retaliation in the workplace. Per the consent decree, the EEOC will also track future internal complaints of sexual harassment at the facility.
“Employees absolutely have the right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment under federal law,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Employers must ensure that workers are safe in this respect and that immediate action is taken to identify and rectify sexual misconduct in the workplace.”
The district director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, Olophius E. Perry, added, “The EEOC appreciates that HD Supply worked with us to bring justice for the alleged victim and apply measures to avoid this kind of harassment in the future. Employees should be encouraged to report harassment to prevent the escalation of misconduct that occurred in this case. Retaliation against those that complain is both illegal and chills other employees from coming forward.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.