Johnson Fistel Secures $875,000 Settlement for Its Clients in a Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Case

A major Hispanic supermarket chain has paid $875,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by six former employees represented by Johnson Fistel, LLP.

The former employees alleged that the supermarket, which is backed by a leading global investment firm and is a member store of one of the largest Hispanic supermarket chains in the country, permitted and engendered a norm of unwanted and violent sexual interaction between supervisors and their employees. Among the instances of harassment complained of in the lawsuit, store supervisors forcibly grabbed the employees’ buttocks, breasts, legs, and genitals with such frequency that it became routine, repeatedly asked for sex, directed stimulated sexual acts at the employees, commented on the employees’ body parts and sex lives, made verbal death threats, and conditioned promotions on the performance of sexual favors.

When the employees repeatedly reported the behavior to the company’s human resources department, the employees alleged that the company turned a blind eye and refused to do anything to stop the harassment. Shortly after the complaints, the employees were either terminated or forced to depart because the harassment became unbearable. They believe their tenure at the supermarket came to a sudden end as a direct result of corporate retaliation.

Johnson Fistel attorney Kristen O’Connor led the prosecution, which included extensive hearings and depositions. Recently, however, the company settled the employees’ claims for $875,000. Ms. O’Connor noted that her clients were “very happy with the result” and were relieved to finally close a painful and traumatic chapter in their lives.

“Sexual harassment is a corporate epidemic and abusers need to be held accountable,” Ms. O’Connor stated. “It was an honor to represent my clients, and I am proud of their brave efforts and the result obtained.”

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature may constitute sexual harassment when the conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Individuals of any gender can be the target of sexual harassment, which does not have to be motivated by sexual desire. It is similarly unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in a responsive investigation, proceeding, or litigation.

Johnson Fistel, LLP has counseled both employers and employees facing or asserting sexual harassment allegations. Please contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation. You may telephone us at (619) 230-0063 or e-mail us at [email protected].