GENEVA — A federal agency said Walmart allowed a male employee to sexually harass a female co-worker at the Geneva store for four years.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — or EEOC — charged in a lawsuit filed in Rochester that Walmart violated federal law when it allegedly allowed the harassment to continue after being informed by the female employee about the alleged behavior.
“Employers have a responsibility to take complaints of sexual harassment seriously,” Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, said in a press release. “If an employer fails to properly address harassment complaints, the EEOC is prepared to take action to protect workers and enforce the law.”
The EEOC said in its lawsuit that from 2014 to 2018 “a Walmart employee regularly made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to a female co-worker.”
The EEOC said 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.”
The EEOC said Walmart management allegedly told her to “stand up” for herself and put her “big girl panties on,” which the agency said resulted in the female employee resigning.
Additionally, the EEOC 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.”
The EEOC said the 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 agency said it filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Rochester “after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.”
The EEOC said it is seeking “back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the affected employee, and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent future workplace sexual harassment.”
Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said Monday that the company “is in the process of going through the complaint.”
He issued the following statement by email: “We don’t tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind. We take this seriously and will respond as appropriate with the court.”
The EEOC said its Buffalo office conducted the investigation that resulted in the legal action.