U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Store Failed to Stop Store Manager’s Abuse Toward Class of Women, Federal Agency Charges
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Big Lots store in Fort Smith, Ark., violated federal law by subjecting a class of female employees to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
The EEOC’s suit (Case No. 2:11-CV-02184-PKH filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division), asserts that Big Lots failed to take action to stop a store manager from sexually harassing women after they complained about his conduct. The EEOC alleges that the former store manager made inappropriate sexual comments and requests for sexual favors.
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement and an injunction against future discrimination.
The EEOC has asked the court to grant a permanent injunction enjoining Big Lots from engaging in any further employment practice that discriminates against female employees because of their gender. The EEOC has also asked the court to provide compensatory and punitive damages for the harassment victims and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.
“Companies must take effective action to enforce their sexual harassment policies to ensure that the workplace is free of sexual harassment,” said Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi. “It is not enough to have a policy – the policy must be effective and enforced. In this case, Big Lot’s policy was ineffective and caused harm to many women.”
According to company information, Big Lots Stores, Inc. is America’s largest broad-line closeout retailer with more than 33,000 employees located in more than 1,380 retail stores and five distribution centers in 47 states.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.