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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lowe’s Pays $1.7 M to Settle Harassment Lawsuit




Lowe’s Pays $1.7 M to Settle Harassment Lawsuit reprint OA News 8-30-09

By Tommy Eden, Attorney

Alabama@Work

A major settlement was announced earlier this week of a discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse, Inc. for $1.72 million and significant remedial relief on behalf of three employees in their twenties who were subjected to a pervasive sexually hostile work environment and retaliated against for complaining about it. Lowe’s has 1,525 stores throughout the United States and Canada.
Specifically, the EEOC alleged in its Complaint that the female employee, age 21 at the time, was sexually assaulted by the 44-year-old male store manager in his office at a Lowe’s store in Longview, Wash. Prior to the alleged assault, the Complaint states that she was implicitly propositioned for sex by the manager related to a recent promotion she received and that Lowe’s not only failed to take prompt remedial action to stop the sexual harassment, but also fired the three victims in the case.
In addition to the $1.7 in monetary relief for the three victims, the three-year consent decree resolving the case requires Lowe’s to:
· Provide comprehensive training to management, non-management, and human resources employees in all Washington and Oregon stores;
· Employees will be trained on what constitutes harassment and retaliation, and on their obligation not to harass or retaliate against any individual;
· Managers and supervisors will be trained on what constitutes harassment and retaliation, their obligation to provide a discrimination-free work environment, and their responsibilities if an employee complains about harassment or retaliation, or if they observe it;
· Human resources personnel will be trained on what constitutes harassment and retaliation, how to institute policies and practices to correct past discrimination and prevent future occurrences, informing complainants about the outcome of internal investigations, and the steps Lowe’s will take to assure a discrimination-free workplace in the future;
· Requires Lowe’s to revise its sexual harassment and anti-retaliation policies;
· Issue an anti-harassment statement to all employees in Washington and Oregon;
· Revise its method for tracking employee complaints of harassment: and
· Report regularly to the EEOC on harassment and retaliation complaints which arise in Washington and Oregon stores during the term of the decree.
Practical Counsel: No worker, regardless of gender or other discriminatory factors, should ever have to endure harassment in order to earn a paycheck. As this case proves, the EEOC continues in its full press litigation mode. Harassment claims are by far the most costly and destructive to the fabric of any business. The policy upgrade, training, and internal investigations listed in this consent decree are exactly what every Alabama employer should do before they become a story headline.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com