Save-A-Lot Grocery, a Mississippi-based grocery company, will pay a former employee $125,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit alleged that Sharon Bennett, a Save-A-Lot cashier, was subjected to severe and pervasive sexual harassment by the former store manager. The harassment is alleged to include lewd comments and requests for sexual favors that escalated to a physical assault. The EEOC alleged that Bennett informed the store owner of the sexual harassment and assault, but that the employer failed to take corrective action.
The EEOC lawsuit was filed in the Greenville Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process. Specifically, the lawsuit asserted violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which protects employees from workplace sexual harassment. In addition to the monetary settlement, the employer entered into a 30-month consent decree that requires the store to institute measures to prevent discrimination and sexual harassment in the future including the development of sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policies, training on these policies and reporting, and posting of anti-discrimination notices in the workplace.
This case illustrates that the EEOC is continuing to aggressively go after employers who fail to take necessary steps to provide a work environment free of sexual harassment. It also reminds employers of the high cost of failing in their duties under the law to prevent and promptly correct sexual harassment. Employers should have effective policies and training in place to prevent the type of conduct that led to this litigation. Ancel Glink’s team of experienced labor and employment attorneys work closely with employers to make sure they are in compliance. If we can help, contact Margaret Kostopulos at email@example.com or Darcy Proctor at firstname.lastname@example.org.