EEOC Sues Wal-Mart for Sexual Harassment, Retaliation and Disability Discrimination

4-10-13

Developmentally Disabled Walmart Employee in Akron Store Fired for Complaining About Sexual Touching, Federal Agency Charges

CLEVELAND – Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. violated federal law by allowing a male employee at an Akron Walmart store to subject a developmentally disabled female co-worker to sexually inappropriate conduct and then retaliating against her for her opposition to the sexual misconduct, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

The EEOC said Jamie Wells, who is developmentally disabled, worked at the company as an associate in the Akron store’s lawn & garden department for more than 11 years. The EEOC said that from about April 2005 through Jan. 7, 2011, the store allowed a male coworker to sexually harass Wells, including sexual touching Wells while on the store’s premises. Further, although store management officials were aware of the harassment, they failed to take prompt or effective action to remedy the sexually hostile work environment. Instead, the EEOC said, the store fired Wells three weeks after she complained about the abusive conduct.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC also charged that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide reasonable accommodations to Wells through adequate training, supervision, and communication regarding its anti-harassment policies. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Case: 5:13-cv-00795) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages and lost wages and benefits.

“Ms. Wells’ impairment made her particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment,” said Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and portions of New Jersey and Ohio. “Once this Walmart was put on notice of the harassment, it had a legal responsibility to take immediate and appropriate action to stop the misconduct. When an employer fails to do so, the EEOC must and will hold that employer accountable.”

Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., of Bentonville, Ark., operates Wal-Mart’s retail stores in the eastern United States.

Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforce­ment efforts, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

Further information about the agency is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov

Reproduced from http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-10-13.cfm