The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) initiated a lawsuit against Wal-Mart alleging that the retail-giant allowed an employee to sexually abuse a female employee over a number of years, and then retaliating against the woman when she complained of the abuse.
According to a complaint filed in federal district court, the woman, who is developmentally disabled, endured harassment of a sexual nature (including touching in inappropriate areas) while at work from April 2005 through January 2011. The complaint also alleges that store management did not take prompt or effective actions to address the abuse. Three weeks after complaining about the long-standing abuse, Wal-Mart terminated her employment.
The EEOC alleges that such conduct violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to address the abusive environment and by failing to provide reasonable accommodations for the woman given her cognitive limitations.
As a matter of law, employers are charged with the responsibility of immediately taking action to stop sexual harassment and to conduct a thorough investigation into an employee’s claims. Moreover, failing to take such action subjects them to civil liability. It is especially important to investigate these claims when a victim is a vulnerable adult.
The suit bears no relation to the regional class actions against Wal-Mart where current and former female employees claim that the company regularly paid women less than men and did not promote them in favor of men. However, it underscores the culture that is being alleged.
The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, compensatory damages as well as punitive damages.
Source: EEOC.gov, EEOC sues Wal-Mart for sexual harassment, retaliation and disability discrimination, April 10, 2013