Walmart employee wouldn’t stop groping co-workers, lawsuit says. Now, company must pay

A Walmart employee wouldn’t stop groping at least three women he worked with at a store in northern Florida and constantly made sexual comments toward them, according to a newly settled federal lawsuit.

A few months after one woman was hired as a sales associate, the employee began lewdly commenting on her body and “would run his fingers down her back, brush up against her, slap her buttocks, and put his hands on her hips while passing her,” the lawsuit said.

When the woman complained about the relentless behavior to upper management at the Walmart in DeFuniak Springs, she wasn’t taken seriously, according to an amended complaint filed on her behalf by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The sexual harassment “continued and escalated,” the complaint said.

A store supervisor is accused of witnessing, and ignoring, the employee grab another female co-worker by her waist as she bent down in the cooler of the meat department, according to the complaint.

The employee also groped a third co-worker from behind by grabbing her waist as she stocked a freezer, the complaint said.

When this woman complained, no action was taken — until a female employee’s husband confronted one manager, according to the complaint.

Walmart fired the employee on Nov. 21, 2018, after the husband showed up at the store — twice — to confront the manager about the “harassment and (Walmart’s) failure to stop it,” the complaint said.

Now Walmart Inc. has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit, the EEOC said in a Feb. 8 news release.

“Walmart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We are glad we could resolve this matter with the EEOC,” company spokeswoman Kelly Hellbusch told McClatchy News on Feb. 8.

Walmart is accused of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prohibits employers from allowing a hostile work environment on the basis of sex, when it didn’t “discipline the harasser or take corrective action” after the sales associate’s complaints, the EEOC said.

In settling the lawsuit, Walmart didn’t “admit to any fault or violation of the law” and denied “any violation of the law,” according to a joint motion for entry of a consent decree filed Feb. 7.

Under the consent decree, Walmart will pay $30,000 in damages to the sales associate, the court filing shows.

Walmart will also give copies of company sexual harassment policies to employees who work at the DeFuniak Springs location, where management must undergo updated training about complying with federal law and preventing sexual harassment, according to the EEOC.

“Title VII requires companies to act quickly and seriously when their employees make complaints about sexual harassment or risk violating the law,” EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson said in a statement.

DeFuniak Springs is about 120 miles northwest of Tallahassee.

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