will pay $2.3 million to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit involving an employee at its Renton store, among the highest settlements ever, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday.
The EEOC had charged the national retailer with harassing a young salesperson and firing a supervisor for standing up for her.
“This seven-figure settlement, among the highest EEOC settlements ever on a per-claimant basis, follows court-ordered sanctions including a penalty of $100,000 due to Fry’s abusive discovery tactics which included destroying relevant evidence, wrongfully withholding evidence, and filing frivolous motions,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez in a statement.
“The case should send a clear message that sexual harassment of vulnerable employees remains a serious problem in this country, as is employer retaliation against those who report harassment.”
(Read Patch’s .)
Here’s some more detail from the EEOC’s statement Thursday:
According to the federal agency’s lawsuit, an assistant store manager at the Renton, Wash., Fry’s harassed 20-year-old sales associate America Rios, frequently sending her sexually charged text messages and inviting her to his house to drink. After her direct supervisor Ka Lam reported the harassment to Fry’s legal department, the company fired Lam. He was told that his termination was due to a decline in his performance despite the fact that his work was consistently commended. …
Under the three-year consent decree filed today with Judge Robert Lasnik, Fry’s agreed to provide monetary relief to Lam and Rios, and take steps to prevent future harassment or retaliation, including ongoing training for all employees and management, reporting any complaints and the company’s responses to the EEOC, and posting a notice for all its employees about the settlement as well as contact information for reporting harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.
Rios said she was “elated and relieved by the settlement, for Ka Lam's sake as much as for mine.”
“This was my first job, and I just wanted the harassment to stop. It really meant a lot to have my supervisor speak out for me, and it was horrifying to see him lose his job over it.”