EEOC Sues Wal-Mart for Harassment of Latinos at Fresno Sam's Club

Sam's Club, the wholesale chain store owned and operated by Wal-Mart, violated federal law by compelling Latino employees to endure a hostile work environment based upon their Mexican national origin, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on May 7.

EEOC's suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., dba Sam’s Club, et al, Case No. 09-CV-00804), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, charges a Fresno Sam's Club subjected Latino employees to repeated verbal harassment, including the repeated use of derogatory words such as "wetback."

National origin discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency's suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for each of the claimants as well injunctive relief, including the creation of a formal discrimination complaint procedure, effective investigative and monitoring mechanisms, and annual training on equal employment opportunity for all employees.

"It is appalling that an employer, after becoming aware of the harassment, allowed this type of behavior to continue without taking appropriate and corrective action," said Melissa Barrios, EEOC's Fresno local director. "The EEOC will continue to expand its presence in the Central Valley to ensure that its employers understand the magnitude of their duty to protect employees from discrimination."

Anna Park, regional attorney of the Los Angeles District Office, added, "Particularly in California, tolerance of openly racist behavior towards Latinos should be a closed page in our history books. Since such a moment has not been reached, the EEOC will pursue all available remedies, including litigation, to ensure that Central Valley employees are protected against this sort of intolerable and unlawful harassment in the workplace."

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is an Arkansas-based international retailer with more than 7,800 stores worldwide. Further information about the EEOC is available on its Web site at www.eeoc.gov. It is also available in Spanish at www.eeoc.gov/es/.

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