The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing Costco for creating a sexually hostile work environment after management allegedly told a female employee to “be friendly” to the man who was stalking her.
According to the complaint, one of the “member-customers” of the warehouse retailer was stalking and harassing one of its female employees. She complained to her immediate superior, who “told the young woman that he agreed, the man was ‘not right,’ and that Costco would monitor the situation.”
When it became apparent that Costco was not doing so, she alerted upper management about his behavior — which included following her around the store, approaching her while she was helping other customers, and attempting to confront her when she was alone. According to her complaint, the management “yelled at her and told her to be friendly to the customer.”
“The employee’s efforts weren’t enough for Costco,” EEOC district director John Rowe said. “One of her managers apparently told the young woman that he agreed the man was ‘not right’ and that Costco would monitor the situation. But what actually happened was that when the situation persisted and the employee complained to the police.”
She later filed for, and received, a restraining order against the man.
Another attorney for the EEOC, John Hendrickson, said that “[a]ll employers have a duty to protect employees from sexual harassment whatever form that harassment may take — whether it’s lewd remarks, groping, propositioning or stalking. No employer gets a pass because it is a customer targeting its employee, rather than a manager or fellow employee.”
“That’s particularly true when the harassment is especially egregious,” he added. “If the employer permits the harassment to continue, it’s compounding its liability and troubles.”
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