Federal regulators are suing Walmart for allegedly looking the other way while an employee with developmental disabilities was sexually harassed by a co-worker for years.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought the suit on behalf of Jamie Wells who has developmental disabilities and worked at an Akron, Ohio Walmart for more than 11 years.
A male co-worker subjected Wells to sexual harassment and inappropriate touching at the store between 2005 and 2011, according to the complaint filed in federal court. Even though managers were aware of the harassment, they did not take appropriate action, the EEOC said. What’s more, the suit indicates that Wells was fired three weeks after she complained about the conduct.
The EEOC is accusing the retail giant of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in addition to lost wages and benefits.
“Ms. Wells’ impairment made her particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment,” said Debra Lawrence, an attorney with the EEOC. “Once this Walmart was put on notice of the harassment, it had a legal responsibility to take immediate and appropriate action to stop the misconduct.”
For their part, Walmart officials insist that they acted appropriately.
“Walmart does not tolerate any type of harassment or discrimination in the workplace,” said Randy Hargrove, a company spokesman, in a statement to Disability Scoop. “When we learned of Ms. Wells’ claims against her co-worker, we investigated and took decisive action to terminate the man whom she was accusing. As part of our investigation, witness accounts led us to discover that Ms. Wells also engaged in inappropriate conduct which led to her dismissal.”