Money Matters - Simplified

Wal-Mart agrees to pay $440,000 in harassment suit settlement

Wal-Mart, world's largest retailer, has agreed to pay $440,000 to nine of its employees who had alleged ethnic harassment at the hands of a co-employee.

Wal-Mart, the retail giant, has agreed to pay $440,000 to nine of its employees who had alleged ethnic harassment at the hands of a co-employee.

The suit filed by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) on behalf of these employees alleged that the world’s largest retailer failed to redress the complaints of these employees.

Law360 reported that Wal-Mart has lodged a consent decree in the Eastern District of California’s District Court.

Harassment alleged at Wal-Mart
The nine employees of Mexican descent were facing regular harassment by a co-worker at the Sam’s Club in Fresno in 2005. The co-worker, a Mexican American, used to insult and pass derogatory remarks against these nine workers.

The insults intensified when the employees reported these to the store management and continued till the officials of the EEOC filed the charges of discrimination in 2006. That was the time when the store discharged the erring employee.

Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said the EEOC suit was against only a single employee of the store and that the employee was fired later.

“Sam’s Club has strong policies against discrimination and harassment. When the full extent of the allegations was brought to the company’s attention, we took them seriously, they were thoroughly investigated and we took immediate action,” added Rossiter.
The settlement details
The settlement, which will remain in force for three years, requires Wal-Mart to re-evaluate its complaint handling procedure for discrimination, harassment, and reprisal on the basis of nationality.

The company will be providing training to its employees at the Fresno store regarding the anti-discriminatory laws.

The company will also be required to provide training to its managers on handling such complaints at Sam Club’s Fresno and Bakersfield stores in California.

Other terms of the consent decree include that the Fresno store will set up a record keeping system for such complaints with a centralized tracking arrangement. All such complaints will also be reported to the EEOC.

Regional Attorney of the EEOC’s L.A. office, Anna Y. Park said, “We commend Wal-Mart for taking the issue of national origin harassment seriously and implementing preventive measures.”

The settlement comes at a time when the retail giant is trying to block the largest class action suit by the women employees of the company. The suit alleges discrimination on the basis of gender by Wal-Mart, and a compensation, which could run into billions of dollars, is being claimed.

That case is pending before the Supreme Court.