FRESNO, Calif. – Sam’s Club, the wholesale chain store owned and operated by Walmart, will pay $440,000 and furnish other relief to settle a national origin harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC contends that at least nine employees of Mexican descent at the Sam’s Club in Fresno, along with one who was married to a Mexican, endured ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks by a fellow co-worker who is Mexican-American. Since late 2005, the victims were barraged with near-daily insults about Mexicans such as “f—-n’ wetbacks,” and references to Mexicans only being good for cleaning the harasser’s home, according to the EEOC. The harasser even threatened to report three of the victims to immigration authorities despite their legal status. The victims and harasser – all female – worked in the demonstration department, serving food samples to customers.
The victims complained about the hostile work environment to management as early as April 2006 to no avail. Instead, the complaints only intensified the harassment and led to intimidation, said the EEOC. Another employee also began deriding a victim for her inability to speak English. It was not until after an official EEOC charge of discrimination was filed in October 2006 that Sam’s Club finally discharged the harasser in December 2006.
In May 2009, the EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (EEOC v. Walmart Stores, Inc. dba Sam’s Club, et al., Case No. 09-CV-00804), claiming that the harassment, and Walmart’s failure to appropriately address it, were in direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Aside from the monetary relief, the parties entered into a three-year consent decree which requires Walmart to comply with the following at its Sam’s Club locations in Fresno and/or Bakersfield, Calif.:
- review and make available its policies against and complaint procedures for national origin discrimination, harassment and retaliation;
- provide training to non-management employees in the Fresno location regarding anti-discrimination laws, including national origin discrimination and harassment;
- provide separate training to management employees in the Fresno and Bakersfield locations which will including training on how to receive, investigate, or report to designated officials complaints of national origin discrimination, harassment and retaliation;
- set up a record-keeping procedure for the Fresno location that provides for the centralized tracking system for such complaints;
- report the handling of such complaints and compliance with the decree to the EEOC; and
- provide neutral references for the victims upon inquiry.
“We commend Walmart for taking the issues of national origin harassment seriously and implementing preventative measures,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Fresno in its jurisdiction. “A work environment that is free of harassment ensures a more productive and vibrant workplace for all.”
Melissa Barrios, director of the EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, added, “National origin discrimination remains a serious problem in this region, and it is important to remember that harassment can manifest even within the same ethnic group. Employers failing to take immediate action send a message that such behavior is tolerated, giving license for others to do the same.”
According to company information, Walmart Stores, Inc. is an Arkansas-based international retailer, operating more than 8,300 stores worldwide, including Sam’s Club warehouses.