Retailing Giant Retaliated Against Employee Who Complained About Pervasive Harassment, Federal Agency Charges
BALTIMORE - The nation's largest retailer violated federal law when it subjected an employee to national origin and religious harassment and retaliated against him when he complained about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Ebrima Jallow, who is Gambian and Muslim, was hired as an asset protection specialist and one year later was promoted to the asset protection coordinator position at the Walmart store in Landover Hills, Md. The EEOC charges that Jallow's supervisor, the store manager, subjected Jallow to frequent and severe harassment based on his national origin. The manager's remarks including suggesting that people of Jallow's national origin contributed to the enslavement of Africans in America, telling Jallow that he should "go back to Africa," and mocking his accent. The manager regularly subjected Jallow to religious harassment, including telling Jallow and others that "all Muslims do is blow up buildings and people," and objecting to the hiring of a Muslim employee. The national origin and religious harassment was pervasive and took place during staff and private meetings and during discussions about Jallow's work responsibilities, the EEOC says in its lawsuit.
The EEOC also charges that after Jallow complained about the harassment of himself and other employees, the store manager unlawfully retaliated against him, including threatening him with termination, placing him on a one-year "coaching period" and telling other employees not to cooperate with Jallow in the performance of his asset protection coordinator job duties.
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits harassment based on national origin or religion. Title VII also forbids employers from retaliating against employees who oppose harassment or discrimination.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 8:13-cv-02655) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Wal-Mart from engaging in national origin and religion harassment or retaliation, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Jallow, and other affirmative relief.
"The EEOC will take action when store managers abuse their authority by engaging in national origin and religious harassment," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, "No employee should be subjected to the indignity of being harassed repeatedly based on his national origin and religion. It is intolerable and unlawful."
According to its website, www.walmart.com, Wal-Mart operates 10,900 stores in 27 countries, employs 2.2 million associates worldwide and had fiscal year 2013 sales of approximately $466 billion.
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.