Retailing Giant Intimidated and Humiliated Employee Who Complained About Harassment, Federal Agency Said
BALTIMORE - The eastern division of the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, will pay $75,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a national origin and religious harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that an asset protection coordinator, Ebrima Jallow, who is Gambian and Muslim, was harassed by the store manager at the Walmart store in Landover Hills, Md. The store manager frequently made offensive comments about Jallow's national origin and religion, including telling Jallow that he should "go back to Africa," mocking his accent, and saying that "all Muslims do is blow up buildings and people," the EEOC said in its lawsuit.
The EEOC also charged that after Jallow complained about the harassment of himself and other employees and participated in investigations of discrimination, the store manager unlawfully retaliated against him, including threatening him with termination, placing him on a one-year "coaching period" and telling other employees not to cooperate with Jallow in the performance of his asset protection coordinator job duties.
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on national origin or religion. Title VII also forbids employers from retaliating against employees who oppose harassment or discrimination. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 8:13-cv-02655) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $75,000 in monetary relief to Jallow, the 30-month consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Wal-Mart Stores East, LP from any future discriminating on the basis of national origin or religion or engaging in unlawful retaliation. The company will provide training on federal laws and store policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation to managers and human resources managers at the Walmart store where the alleged discrimination occurred. Wal-Mart East, LP will report to the EEOC regarding any internal complaints of alleged national origin discrimination, religious discrimination or retaliation and will post a notice regarding the settlement.
"Retaliation is the leading basis for charges filed with the EEOC," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "This settlement should remind all employers that if an employee complains about unlawful harassment or discrimination, the best course of action is to investigate promptly, stop any improper conduct and ensure that there is no unlawful reprisal against employees who exercise their civil rights."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Harassment based on national origin or religion simply has no business in the 21st century workplace. The EEOC is pleased that this settlement will provide equitable relief and training to prevent unlawful harassment, discrimination or retaliation."
The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov .