Yet again, Dolgencorp dba Dollar General Stores, Inc. is the target of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sexual harassment lawsuit claiming the retail chain violated federal law when a Red Banks, Mississippi store manager allegedly subjected female employees to sexual harassment.
Incidents of sexual harassment in retail are rampant, yet many victims don’t realize exactly what behavior federal law prohibits – or simply don’t want to rock the boat.
So what exactly constitutes sexual harassment – and what can you do if you experience it?
Dollar General Manager Sends Employee Unwelcome Texts, Makes Sexual Remarks
According to the lawsuit, a Dollar General supervisor repeatedly directed sexual gestures and remarks toward his female employee and sent her unwelcome text messages. The EEOC states this is not the first employee to complain about that particular store manager’s sexually harassing behavior.
A three-month investigation into the supervisor led to his eventual suspension, then termination for inappropriate conduct. The EEOC is seeking punitive and compensatory and damages for the employee and injunctive relief prohibiting Dollar General from submitting its employees to sexual harassment in the future.
Dolgencorp Doesn’t Learn From Prior Incidents, Fails To Address Internal Complaints
Dollar General is one of the most successful U.S. discount retail chains. Since it’s 1956 inception, the chain has grown to employ more than 100,000 people in 13,000 stores across 43 states and boasts an annual revenue of over $17 billion.
Yet the company can’t seem to get it together when it comes to addressing internal sexual harassment complaints.
In February 2014, Dolgencorp dba Dollar General agreed to pay $27,500 to resolve sexual harassment claims involving a Bull Shoals, Arkansas store manager who several employees claim requested sexual favors and made lewd comments toward them.
Though one employee reported the conduct to the corporate hotline and complained to an assistant manager, Dollar General failed to address the situation.
In June 2011, Dolgencorp agreed to pay $50,000 in relief to three female employees after a male Dollar General store manager subjected them to a sexually hostile work environment in two North Carolina Dollar General locations.
"There is nothing ambiguous about the laws against sexual harassment,” said Katharine W. Kores, EEOC's Memphis District Office Director. “Managers may not subject their subordinates to such abuse in the workplace. Equally clear is the EEOC's continued commitment to its mission of enforcing Title VII's prohibition against sexual harassment, as well as other federal laws forbidding employment discrimination."
What Kind Of Behavior Is Considered Sexual Harassment In The Workplace?
Nearly 40% of women in working in retail report having experienced some level of sexual harassment while on the job, yet, the EEOC has received only around 7,000 to 8,000 sexual complaints annually over the past 10 years.
Thousands of incidents go unreported by employees who either don’t want to make waves at work or simply don’t realize what they are experiencing is serious enough to be considered sexual harassment.
Behavior that constitutes sexual harassment can include conduct ranging from an uncomfortably long hug or frequent shoulder rubs to asking someone out on a date or making jokes of a sexual nature and unwelcome flirting.
Emails and texts from co-workers containing content or photographs of a flirtatious or lewd nature are also evidence of sexual harassment. Ask yourself – does it make you uncomfortable?
Sexual Harassment Victims Can Seek Damages Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
Though sexual harassment is not a criminal offense in itself, it is a violation of federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from harassing employees based on their sex. Courts generally refer to EEOC guidelines, which state that unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
- submission to such conduct is made (explicitly or implicitly) a term or condition of an individual's employment,
- submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual, or
- such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
When the behavior meets any of these criteria, the victim can file a civil lawsuit for monetary damages, including job reinstatement, lost wages, compensation for emotional harm, mental anguish or inconvenience and other financial losses that resulted from the harassment.
What To Do When You Experience Sexual Harassment At Work
Many people call us to ask whether their experience would be considered sexual harassment.
We answer yes to around 99.9% of them. In other words, if you are questioning whether you are experiencing sexual harassment, you probably are - because the situation has made you uncomfortable enough to question it.
Any time comments or behavior make you feel uncomfortable in the workplace, tell someone – a supervisor or co-worker – and request that the behavior stops. Make note of every occurrence.
Contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible to learn whether your situation qualifies you to pursue a claim for damages and how you can protect yourself from further harassment under federal law.
Do you think were harassed at work or by a co-worker? Visit our workplace harassment FAQ page for more information. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online or by phone at 877.858.8018. All inquiries are protected by the attorney client privilege and kept CONFIDENTIAL. (There is never a fee for a consultation.)