Pacific Northwest Supercenter to Pay $485,000 for Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the sexually hostile work environment at Fred Meyer Stores Inc. in Oregon City, Ore., started at the top, with illegal conduct by the store director and operations manager. The third-largest supercenter operator in the United States, the company--known familiarly to consumers in the Pacific Northwest as Freddy's--sells everything from apparel and home goods to groceries, consumer electronics, fuel, and jewelry at more than 125 locations. EEOC asserted in litigation that the Oregon City location director and operations manager repeatedly subjected females to graphic sexual discussions, unwanted touching, and requests for sexual favors.

The lawsuit alleged that the owner condoned and accepted this sexually harass¬ing behavior, and the EEOC obtained testimony from the company's human resources manager who witnessed the harassing conduct on several occasions and simply walked away. According to the commission, the same human resources manager failed to take appropriate action against the store director or operations manager. In addition, EEOC charged that the company retaliated against the female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The owner agreed to pay $485,000 to the three women who came forward during the lawsuit. The company also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training for the owner, managers, supervisors, and employees; establish policies and procedures to address sexual harassment issues; provide information to EEOC concerning any future discrimination complaints; and allow EEOC to monitor the work site for the next two years.

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