EEOC Says Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores Tolerated Hostile Workplace
PHOENIX – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, Inc. will pay $70,000 as part of a settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the EEOC. The EEOC had charged that Love’s subjected two young female cashiers to repeated and serious sex-based abuse by customers.
According to the EEOC, the victims of the case, two cashiers working at Love’s Buckeye, Ariz., truck stop, aged 18 and 20 at the start of their employment, were sexually harassed frequently. The cashiers detailed extensive sexual harassment caused by truck drivers, some of whom were regular customers of Love’s. The EEOC alleged that Love’s customers sexually harassed the cashiers by engaging in conduct that included unwanted sexual touching and pressing; crude and obscene remarks; sexual demands and innuendos; handing one victim an obscene card; and demands for personal information. Some of this abusive behavior was committed in front of other customers, the EEOC said.
The EEOC maintained that Love’s knew about and tolerated this sexually hostile work environment caused by its customers. Further, the EEOC charged, despite Love’s knowledge about the harassment, the company not only failed to take reasonable steps to stop the harassment, but at least one manager laughed about it, and another manager said the harassment was to be expected because it is a truck stop. Managers also told the victims to “deal with it” and in particular to tolerate the misconduct of one repeat offending customer because “he’s always like that.”
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, Inc., Civil Action No.CV-07-1843-ROS), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.
In addition to the settlement requiring Love’s to pay $70,000 to the former cashiers, Love’s also must investigate complaints of sexual harassment, provide training for managers and supervisors on conducting sexual harassment investigations, and post a warning that harassment of Love’s employees will not be tolerated.
“Employers are liable for the harassment of their workers by non-employees on their property, when they knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take corrective action,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the Phoenix District Office, which originated the legal action. “This settlement agreement sends a message to Love’s and other companies that they must promptly address the harassment of employees by their customers.”
EEOC Acting Phoenix District Director Rayford O. Irvin added, “We encourage all employees, including young ones, to come forward and file complaints if they believe they are the victims of sexual harassment by either employees or customers.”
According to its website, Love’s has over 200 locations nationwide in more than 30 states and grows by about 15 stores per year. Love’s website also states that Love’s is number 15 on Forbes’ list of the largest privately held companies in the United States. In 2005, when the alleged harassment occurred, Love’s Buckeye location was the highest-volume store in Love’s Western Division.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.