WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Winston-Salem-based gas station / convenience store chain WilcoHess, LLC agreed to pay $75,000 and furnish substantial non-monetary relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC announced today that Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina, has signed and entered the agreement between the parties. In the lawsuit, the EEOC had charged that a female cashier was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment and then retaliated against by the company after she complained about the harassment.
According to the EEOC’s complaint (EEOC v. WilcoHess, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:08-cv-00704, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina), WilcoHess subjected Bridgette L. Boston to a sexually hostile work environment for approximately three months from November 2006 to February 2007.
The harassment took place at the company’s Akron Drive store in Winston-Salem and was perpetrated by the store’s then-manager. The EEOC had claimed that the store manager propositioned Boston for sexual favors, made frequent sexual comments to her about her body, and touched her buttocks on at least one occasion. The EEOC further claimed that Boston reported the sexual harassment to her assistant manager, who in turn forwarded the complaint to the district manager, but no action was taken to end the harassment. Rather, according to the EEOC, after Boston complained, the store manager significantly reduced Boston’s work hours, which forced her to resign.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition to $75,000 in monetary damages, the consent decree settling the suit provides for injunctive relief preventing WilcoHess from discriminating against any person on the basis of sex under Title VII, and from retaliating against anyone who complains about such discrimination. The decree also requires WilcoHess to post its sexual harassment policy at all stores within the company’s Northern Region, which includes approximately 68 stores in North Carolina and Virginia. Further, the decree requires WilcoHess to provide annual sexual harassment and retaliation training to all managers, supervisors, and employees within its Northern Region, and to review its sexual harassment policy with each new employee at the time of hire. Finally, WilcoHess agreed to provide the EEOC with semi-annual reports of all written and verbal complaints of unwelcome sexual conduct received from employees in the company’s Northern Region.
“Victims of sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace often suffer severe emotional and financial injuries that can seriously affect their lives for years,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “It is the EEOC’s duty to pursue justice for the damages those victims suffer, as well as relief aimed at preventing future harassment by that employer.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.