“Put On Your Big Girl Panties”
“Put on your big girl panties” is what one Walmart manager alleged told a store worker after she complained about a co-worker’s rude behavior. That comment is now costing the retail giant $410,000.
According to a complaint filed by the EEOC, a Walmart employee complained to a manager that a co-worker at the company’s Geneva, new York store was engaged in sexual harassment. She said the male worker was making graphic sexual advances, made rude sexual comments about the bodies of females in the store and even engaged in unwanted touching.
According to the agency,
“…the male employee regularly made vulgar comments about the bodies of female employees, including commenting on female co-workers’ breasts and buttocks. The male employee subjected female workers to unwanted touchings, including pressing his crotch against a co-worker’s buttocks. According to the EEOC’s complaint, he told one female co-worker, ‘I can’t wait to see you in these,’ referring to thong underwear. The EEOC also alleged that the male employee repeatedly invited female employees to hang out alone with him despite being rejected, and graphically stated that he wanted to have sex with female co-workers who had told him they were not interested.”
One of the women at the store complained for years to management but was ignored. After a manager told her to “stand up” for herself and put on “her big girl panties,’ she quit. That worker will receive $175,000 of the settlement while the remaining amount will be distributed to other females at the store who were also affected.
In announcing the settlement, an EEOC spokesperson said,
“Sexual harassment causes damage in any workplace, but it is especially pernicious when it affects multiple victims over several years. We are pleased that Walmart has agreed to take steps to make its workplace safer and more respectful, including by educating its management employees about their responsibility to prevent and eradicate sexual harassment.”
Employees are encouraged to come forward and report sexual harassment yet the process fails if no action is taken following a complaint. Unfortunately, we see many cases where managers either ignore complaints or fail to take meaningful action. That this behavior went on for four years at the Geneva, New York Walmart without any action is surprising, however. (We previously reported on a Walmart case where the company fired a disabled worker after she complained about sexual harassment. Obviously, retaliation is also illegal.)
Sexual Harassment in Retail
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment a form of discrimination based on gender. When a retail employee experiences sexual harassment in the workplace or at a work-related event - whether it is sexual harassment by a manager, coworker, customer or third party – that retail employee may file a lawsuit for damages. Most states have similar state laws that also prohibit sexual harassment.
A study by the Center for American Progress shows that sexual harassment is widespread in the retail industry. Unfortunately, these claims don’t get as much attention. That means that many retail workers don’t fully understand their rights and their ability to seek monetary damages for both sexual harassment and a hostile workplace.
To learn more, visit our sexual harassment retail industry page. Ready to see if you have a claim? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 888.249.6944.
Our lawyers and our nationwide network of experienced sexual harassment lawyers handle cases in most states.