Assistant Manager Harassed 12 Women, Including Teen, in Two States, Agency Charged
DENVER – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has settled its class sexual harassment lawsuit against the Dillard’s department store chain for $500,000 and substantial remedial relief on behalf of a class of 12 female former employees who were sexually harassed by an assistant store manager in two states.
The EEOC maintained in its suit that assistant store manager Scot McGinness sexually harassed women at two Dillard’s stores. The EEOC said that Dillard’s knew that McGinness was sexually harassing young female subordinates at the Palmdale, Calif., store, but failed to take appropriate action to stop the misconduct. Instead, Dillard’s transferred him to a managerial position in its Westminster, Colo., store, and failed to notify the new store about McGinness’s history of sexual harassment.
Moreover, after a Colorado female associate complained to her store manager that McGinness inappropriately touched her, McGinness was given only a verbal warning regarding his conduct. Only 10 months later, when McGinness physically and verbally sexually harassed an 18-year-old high school senior and the Westminster police were contacted, did Dillard’s finally fire McGinness.
Sandra Padegimas, the EEOC trial attorney who prosecuted this case, said, “Cloaked with his mantle of authority, Mr. McGinness used his power over his female subordinate employees as a way to reward or punish his victims. By failing to notify the Colorado store about this man’s sexual harassment in California at the time of his transfer to Colorado, Dillard’s permitted its Westminster employees to go in harm’s way.”
Chester V. Bailey, director of the EEOC’s Phoenix district, which oversees Colorado, said “Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after investigating multiple charges of discrimination and first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.”
In addition to paying $500,000 to the 12 women, the consent decree settling the suit (EEOC v. Joslin Dry Goods, d/b/a Dillard’s, Civil Action No. 05-CV-00177-WDM-KLM) provides an injunction prohibiting the company from discriminating based on sex or retaliation. The company will provide significant sexual harassment training to employees and management officials, including training for managers on how to properly investigate sexual harassment allegations. Dillard’s further agreed that, henceforth, if it transfers an employee from one store to another after it receives a sexual harassment complaint about the employee, the new store will be advised of the complaint. The company also agreed that, unless its investigation of such complaints demonstrates that the complaint has “no merit,” the alleged harasser will receive two hours of additional anti-harassment training. During the decree’s three-year term, Dillard’s will provide reports to the EEOC about any sexual harassment complaints it receives.
Ybarra Lloyd, who worked at the Palmdale store, said, “The EEOC helped us ladies stand up to Dillard’s. In order to settle this lawsuit, Dillard’s had to agree to make changes in its workplace that, hopefully, will prevent others from being victimized. I think employers should be required to tell their employees about the EEOC because most of us don’t know that there is an agency that can help victims fight workplace discrimination. The EEOC gave us a voice!”
Another class member, Ketty Lopez, who worked at the Palmdale store, said, “Our complaints about sexual harassment were ignored because no one seemed to care – but the EEOC made them care. Now Dillard’s will have to follow up on any complaints about sexual harassment it receives.”
According to company information, Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard's ranks among the nation's largest fashion apparel and home furnishings retailers, with annual revenues exceeding $7.7 billion. The company operates 330 Dillard's locations spanning 29 states, all under the Dillard's name.
EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill, said, “Employers have a legal duty to take appropriate corrective and preventative action the first time they learn of discriminatory conduct in the workplace. We can’t stress enough the importance of employers taking adequate steps to protect the rights of all employees.”
In September 2004, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp (then vice chair) launched the federal agency’s national Youth@Work Initiative -- a comprehensive outreach and education campaign designed to inform teens about their employment rights and responsibilities and to help employers create positive first work experiences for young adults. The EEOC has held more than 3,400 Youth@Work events nationwide since the program was launched, reaching more than 212,000 students, education professionals, and employers. Further information about the Youth@Work campaign, including how to schedule a free Youth@Work outreach presentation, is available on the agency’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/youth/index.html. Specific EEOC-related information for teens is available on the Youth@Work web site at http://www.youth.eeoc.gov.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.