SEATTLE – Fred Meyer Stores, Inc. (Fred Meyer) will pay $485,000 to three female victims of sexual harassment and retaliation to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit ( EEOC, et. al. v. Fred Meyer Stores, Inc. No. CV08-0208 HA, United States District Court of Oregon), the company’s practice of harassing female employees occurred during 2004 through 2005 at the Fred Meyer Oregon City store. The EEOC says the sexually hostile work environment started at the top, with illegal conduct by the store director and operations manager. The EEOC further asserted in the litigation that the store director and operations manager repeatedly subjected females to graphic sexual discussions, unwanted touching, and requests for sexual favors.
The lawsuit alleged that Fred Meyer condoned and accepted this sexually harassing behavior, and the Commission obtained testimony from the company’s human resources manager who witnessed the harassing conduct on several occasions and simply walked away. According to the EEOC, the same human resources manager failed to take appropriate action against the store director or operations manager. In addition, the EEOC charged that the company retaliated against the female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
Under a consent decree filed with the federal court, Fred Meyer agreed to pay $485,000 to the three women who came forward during the EEOC’s lawsuit. The company also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training for the owner, managers, supervisors and employees; establish policies and procedures to address sexual harassment issues; provide information to the EEOC concerning any future discrimination complaints; and allow EEOC to monitor the work site for the next two years.
It is unfortunate that these women had to endure a workplace permeated with such sexual hostility. We are hopeful that Fred Meyer Stores learns from this litigation that one of the most important duties it has to its employees is to keep them safe from workplace discrimination,” said EEOC’s San Francisco District Office Director Mike Baldonado.
EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo added, “The evidence in this litigation pointed to an alarming lack of recent workplace, anti-discrimination training for the high level managers involved in this case. It is unfortunate that a sophisticated employer like Fred Meyer Stores failed to recognize the importance of such training for its managers.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age and disability. The Seattle Field Office’s jurisdiction includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.