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Grocery store chain settles EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit for $325k


A Jackson, Miss., grocery store has agreed to pay $325,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission class sexual harassment lawsuit, in which its manager was charged with making unwanted sexual advances to more than 20 women.

The agency said in a statement Monday that the manager for the Save-A-Lot grocery store operated by Venture Inc. repeatedly propositioned female employees for sex, including offering money and benefits in exchange for sex.

It charged also that the manager used sexually offensive and degrading language, made graphic comments describing sex acts, and engaged in “other sexually degrading behavior.”

The 30-month consent decree resolving the lawsuit provides that the company put a number of measures in place to prevent harassing behavior and has procedures in place in the event it does occur.

"There is no excuse for the sort of misconduct that was charged here — unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and degrading language — especially when directed at so many employees." said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC's Birmingham District office, in a statement.

"It interferes with an individual's work performance and creates an intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment. The EEOC will aggressively pursue remedies for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace."

C. Emanuel Smith, EEOC regional attorney, added, "We are pleased that Venture has implemented improved reporting procedures and training. We encourage other employers in the industry to tackle this issue in a similar fashion and provide improved workplace protection."

In a statement, Venture CEO Dan Myers said the company takes all harassment allegations seriously.

“In fact, we have strong policies prohibiting such conduct, and maintain a zero-tolerance policy against it,” Mr. Myers said in the statement. “We strongly deny the allegations in this case, but the EEOC made a settlement proposal that made it more favorable to resolve this and move on, rather than engage in very expensive litigation to prove our innocence.”