Women Pressured for Sex, Degraded by Senior Management Official, Agency Charged

JACKSON, Miss. – A Jackson-area Save-A-Lot grocery store operated by Venture, Inc. will pay $325,000 and furnish other relief to settle a class sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC lawsuit charged that a manager employed by Venture repeatedly propositioned female employees for sex, even offering money and benefits in exchange for sex. The EEOC alleged that the manager used sexually offensive and degrading language, made graphic comments describing sex acts and engaged in other sexually degrading behavior.  More than 20 women were victims of the sexually hostile workplace, the EEOC said.

Actionable sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes unwanted sexual advances or other unwelcome conduct motivated by the victim’s gender.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Jackson Division (EEOC v. Venture, Inc. d/b/a Save-A-Lot, 3:11-cv-596-WHB-RHW) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The 30-month consent decree resolving the suit provides that the company will put a number of measures in place to prevent harassing behavior and have in place procedures in the event it does occur.  Those measures include training for Venture’s managers in preventing and responding to harassment; notices posted in all Mississippi Venture, Inc.’s locations informing employees about the lawsuit’s resolution and their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws; and a court injunction prohibiting further harassment and retaliation.

“There is no excuse for the sort of misconduct that was charged here — unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and degrading language – especially when directed at so many employees.” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Birmingham District office.    “It interferes with an individual’s work performance and creates an intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment.  The EEOC will aggressively pursue remedies for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.”

C. Emanuel Smith, EEOC regional attorney, added, “We are pleased that Venture has implemented improved reporting procedures and training.  We encourage other employers in the industry to tackle this issue in a similar fashion and provide improved workplace protection.”