U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the following announcement on Jan. 29.
Flash Market, Inc., owner and operator of convenience store gas stations in the Mid-South under the Citgo, Phillips, Conoco and Shell brands, has agreed to pay $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced.
The EEOC's Memphis District Office investigated a charge filed by a female cashier at a Memphis Flash Market and found that the company created a hostile work environment for the cashier and then fired her for complaining. Specifically, the EEOC charged in its suit that the supervisor propositioned the cashier for sex, frequently made sexually explicit comments and subjected her to inappropriate touching on several occasions. The cashier later complained to her store manager about the area manager's conduct. However, the store manager told the cashier she could not help because she was being sexually harassed by the area manager as well. The area manager fired the cashier after she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Memphis Division (EEOC v. Flash Market, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-02717), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit sought injunctive relief prohibiting Flash Market from discriminating against its female employees in the future, as well as lost wages, compensatory damages and other affirmative relief for the former employee.
Besides monetary relief, Flash Market entered into an 18-month consent decree requiring the company to train its Shelby County employees and managers on the requirements of Title VII and its prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace. Flash Market agreed to conduct exit interviews with departing employees to determine if they were subjected to sex discrimination or retaliation during their employment. Flash Market will also post an anti-discrimination notice and permit the EEOC to monitor the company's compliance with the consent decree. Flash Market denied any liability or wrongdoing in the suit.
"This case is yet another example of the epidemic of sexual harassment, which continues to permeate workplaces across the country," said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC's Memphis District Office. "We are pleased that Flash Market will take steps to create a work environment that is free from such misconduct."
EEOC Trial Attorney Jason Bailey said, "Preventing sexual harassment remains a top priority for the EEOC. We will continue to fight for employees who are sexually harassed at work and punished for speaking out against such behavior."
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