Lowe's Pays $1.72 Million To Settle Retaliation and Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
Lowe's settled a retaliation and sexual harassment discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 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. The former employees, two young men and one woman, were subjected to widespread and repeated sexual harassment by male and female managers and coworkers at a Lowe’s store in Longview, Wash., according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The hostile work environment, which endured for more than six months, included physical and verbal abuse which culminated in one instance of sexual assault.
Among the many allegations in the lawsuit a female employee, age 21 at the time, was sexually assaulted by the 44-year-old male store manager in his office. Prior to the alleged assault, the EEOC said she was implicitly propositioned for sex by the manager related to a recent promotion she received. EEOC asserted 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. Retaliation occurs when an employee is fired for refusing or reporting sexual harassment.
“Corporate America should be on notice that sexual harassment and retaliation will not be tolerated by the EEOC,” said Commission Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “In this case, severe sex-based harassment of young workers was permitted to run rampant at one of the nation’s largest retailers. It is shocking that Lowe’s store managers actively engaged in, and even encouraged, such blatant unlawful conduct and then retaliated against the victims for objecting to it.”
In addition to the $1,720,000 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 sexual harassment and retaliation, their obligation to provide a discrimination-free work environment, and their responsibilities if an employee complains about sexual 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.