An electronic retail group based in California has been ordered to pay a massive settlement in connection with a sexual harassment and alleged retaliation case that dates back to 2010. The case was filed against Fry’s Electronics two years ago by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a young female employee in Seattle.
Reports indicate that the woman’s supervisor had attempted to stand up for her at work, but that person was quickly fired after complaining to Fry’s legal department about the boss’s actions. Federal documents note that the woman’s immediate supervisor had been commended on his work ethic and applauded in performance reviews, but there was no obvious reason for his employment termination.
The perpetrator is accused of sending sexual messages to the young woman via text, which included sexual innuendos and requests to have drinks together.
Fry’s, which is based in San Jose, agreed to settle the case for $2.3 million in late August, according to media reports. The company vehemently argues that no discrimination occurred, and a formal statement indicates that the settlement was necessary only to prevent continued legal costs from accumulating. Even though Fry’s has proudly boasted about its diverse workforce and tolerant policies, the EEOC is still concerned about activities within the company.
Government attorneys said the company sent a negative message by retaliating against a person who was attempting to maintain moral and ethical standards. That kind of reaction can prevent legitimate sexual harassment claims from coming forward in the future, largely because employees are afraid that they will lose their jobs if they speak out. This could be even worse for Fry’s in the long run, because workers will likely wait until the harassment is intolerable before reporting it, instead of addressing small problems early on.
The company is reportedly required to provide additional training to managers and employees, and government inspectors will be reviewing the firm’s sexual harassment policies. Increased reporting requirements to the EEOC will also be implemented.
Source: NBC7 San Diego, “Fry’s to pay $2.3 million in sexting case,” Lisa Fernandez, Aug. 31, 2012