Wal-Mart Settles Sexual Harassment Suit With EEOC

DALLAS — Wal-Mart Stores of Texas, LLC will pay $27,500 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC charged in its suit, Case No. 7:10-CV-118 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, that the company violated federal law when it subjected Paula Barstad, an overnight stocker at a Midland, Texas, Walmart, to sexual harassment. According to the EEOC, a male security guard sexually harassed Barstad, including unwanted verbal remarks and physical touching. Barstad reported the harassment to store management personnel on multiple occasions, but was repeatedly ignored. According to the agency’s suit, even after Barstad submitted two written complaints about the harassment, management disregarded the reports and the sexual harassment continued.

“Sexual harassment by persons in security positions is particularly troubling given that such positions should promote a sense of safety not only to customers, but to the store employees as well,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “When complaints are not met with an immediate response, an employee may be led to believe that a safe workplace is not a priority for management.”

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

EEOC Trial Attorney Joel Clark said, “Title VII requires more than talking a good game about preventing harassment; it requires the employer’s effort to take action once a complaint is made. Employers need to be proactive about eliminating sexual harassment as soon as they become aware of it. We are pleased that Wal-Mart decided to resolve this case early and without protracted litigation.”

In addition to the monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the case includes injunctive relief enjoining the Midland Walmart from engaging in sexual harassment and retaliation, and requires the store to post a notice about sexual harassment. The consent decree also requires the Midland Walmart to conduct anti-discrimination training for all managers, including overnight managers, about the consequences of violating federal anti-discrimination laws and failing to address reports of discrimination. The training will specifically explain the steps that managers and assistant managers should take when they receive a complaint relating to discrimination.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.