Wal-Mart Stores East, LP (Walmart) violated federal law when it allowed a male employee at its Geneva, N.Y. Walmart Supercenter to sexually harass a female co-worker for years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed this past Friday.

walmart-sued-for-sexual-harassmentAccording to the EEOC’s lawsuit, from 2014 to 2018 a Walmart employee regularly made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to a female co-worker.

The EEOC alleges that the male employee regularly made vulgar comments about his co-worker, including numerous remarks about how “good” she looked. The male employee repeatedly invited his female co-worker to meet with him alone and told her he wanted to have sex with her even though she told him she was not interested.

Instead of Walmart management’s stopping the harassment, they told her to “stand up” for herself and put her “big girl panties on,” which caused the female employee to resign. The federal agency further alleges that Walmart received multiple complaints from various female employees about this male employee’s harassing conduct beginning in 2015, but failed to take effective measures to stop the harassment.

Finally, the EEOC charges that the female employee was forced to resign when Walmart management failed to stop the harassment. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited by the statute.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 6:19-cv-06718) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Rochester Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the affected employee, and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent future workplace sexual harassment.

“Employers have a responsibility to take complaints of sexual harassment seriously,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “If an employer fails to properly address harassment complaints, the EEOC is prepared to take action to protect workers and enforce the law.”

“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace,” said Kevin Berry, director of the New York District Office. “It is especially concerning when a large, sophisticated business has notice of the harassment and fails to do anything to stop it.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The agency’s Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.