In December 2013 the EEOC announced that Jackson, Mississippi-area Save-A-Lot grocery store operated by Venture, Inc. has agreed to pay $325,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of more than 20 female employees.
The EEOC claims that former Save-A-Lot Operations Manager Jeff Stewart subjected over 20 women to a sexually hostile work environment from 2006 until 2011.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Jackson Division in September 2011:
…Jeff Stewart (“Stewart”), Defendant’s Operations Manager, would proposition [Doe] and other female employees for sex, including offering them money, higher salaries, and other benefits for sex, or taking or threatening adverse actions against them depending on their response to his sexual aggression (e.g. termination, cutting their pay);
…Stewart would propose performing graphic and lewd sex acts with Doe and other female employees, and make graphic and lewd sexual comments to them (e.g. “that his penis belongs in an employee’s vagina, “that we wanted to f–k” a female employee “real bad”, that he wanted to see an employee naked; Stewart commented about employees’ “butts” and breasts, invited an employee to hold his penis while he urinated, told an employee that his penis was bigger than her boyfriend’s, invited an employee into the bathroom for a sexual encounter, cornered an employee in an office for a sexual encounter, and inquired of another employee whether she liked “cream filling,” and whether she liked sex with females);
…Stewart sexually groped female employees and touched them in their private areas, including sticking his hands down their pants;
…Stewart took sexual photographs and made videos of female employees’ bodies and then displayed them in the workplace;
…Stewart engaged in sexually graphic demonstrations and gestures, including grabbing or pointing to his penis, pointing to female employee’s private parts, and stuffing food in his groin area to simulate a sexual organ;
Stewart’s conduct was open and notorious among employees, supervisors and managers;
Some employees were afraid to complain about Stewart’s conduct because Stewart was intimidating and had a reputation for penalizing employees who resisted, complained about, or challenged him;
Some Employees and managers believed or knew Defendant was aware of Stewart’s conduct and complaints by employees about it, and did not believe Defendant would correct it even if they complained.
Defendant was aware of complaints about Stewart sexually harassing female employees, but failed to take effective preventive or corrective action;
Employee protests directly to Stewart did not stop his conduct.
Doe complained to Defendant’s Store Manager, Sam Whitehead (“Whitehead”) about Stewart sexually harassing her.
Shortly after Doe reported the harassment to Whitehead, Doe became involved in a minor, verbal altercation with another cashier after that cashier slammed a door into a chair in which Doe was sitting. After the altercation, Stewart contacted Doe to inform her that she was terminated. In contrast, no action was taken against the other cashier.
Whitehead later contacted Doe and apprised her that the incident was not her fault.