U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Supervisor in Mall Store Harassed Two Women, Federal Agency Charges
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Genesco, Inc., doing business as Journeys, which operates a retail store whose target customers are in the age range of 13-22, violated federal law by subjecting a class of women to sexual harassment and retaliating against one woman for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed September 29, 2009.
In its suit, the EEOC said that a supervisor employed by Journeys subjected Lauren Torres and a class of women, including at least one other teen, to sexual harassment. The women were subjected to pervasive sexual comments and innuendo and Torres suffered unwelcome touching of her body, which created a hostile work environment for them. The EEOC also charged that Torres suffered retaliation with respect to work hours and in the terms and conditions of her employment because she opposed the supervisor’s unwelcome conduct.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who file internal complaints, file charges of discrimination, or otherwise oppose discriminatory employment practices and/or participate in proceedings under Title VII. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico (EEOC v. Genesco, Inc., d/b/a Journeys, Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00952) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah, said, “We continue to see a significant number of sexual harassment cases throughout our district. We are particularly concerned when employers fail to protect teenagers from harassment in the workplace. The EEOC will prosecute such cases vigorously.”
The lawsuit asks the court to order Genesco to provide Torres and other affected women with appropriate relief, including back wages; compensatory and punitive damages; and to grant a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any gender-discriminatory practice. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that eradicate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Our investigation revealed that a Journeys supervisor was permitted to harass these young women and Journeys did not act promptly to provide corrective relief,” said EEOC Acting Phoenix District Director Rayford Irvin. “Employers have an important responsibility to protect their employees from harassment and retaliation in the workplace. In this case, this employer failed to do so and will now have to answer for its conduct in court.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.