The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission announced that Sam’s Club would pay a $440,000 fine to settle a harassment lawsuit involving Hispanics at a club in Fresno, Calif.
The EEOC contended 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. According to the EEOC, 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 addition to the fine, Sam’s Club agreed to review policies and complaint procedures involving national origin discrimination, harassment and retaliation and provide training to managers and employees at Fresno and Bakersfield clubs and implement a new record-keeping procedure for complaints.
“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,” said Melissa Barrios, director of the EEOC’s Fresno office. “Employers failing to take immediate action send a message that such behavior is tolerated, giving license for others to do the same.”
Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office added, “We commend Walmart for taking the issues of national origin harassment seriously and implementing preventative measures. A work environment that is free of harassment ensures a more productive and vibrant work place for all.”