PetSmart Will Pay $125,000 to Settle EEOC Sex Harassment and Retaliation Suit

Monday, August 24, 2009
PetSmart, Inc., the nation's leading retailer of services and products for pets, will pay $125,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a federal sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.

The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that female employees were subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment by a store manager who worked first at the company's Pottstown store and then at its Wyomissing store. The EEOC said that the store manager's sexually offensive conduct and comments included repeatedly grabbing his genitals while talking to female employees and making explicit sexual comments and sexual innuendoes.

Further, the EEOC charged, PetSmart not only failed to take prompt and effective action to stop the harassment, as required by law, but engaged in unlawful retaliation against a female manager after she complained. The store manager allegedly yelled at the woman, belittled her in front of subordinates, followed her around the store and disciplined her despite her good job performance. As a result of the unrelenting harassment and unwarranted retaliation, the EEOC said, she was forced to quit her job.

"Sexual harassment is unacceptable and illegal at any workplace," said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. "The EEOC is strongly committed to combating this kind of misconduct."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964makes it unlawful to sexually harass an employee and to retaliate against someone who complains about discrimination. The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 08-cv-3527, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court.

The two-year consent decree settling the suit, which is pending court approval, provides important equitable relief, including mandatory EEO training of all managers, supervisors, and employees about employee rights and employer obligations under Title VII; distributing the company policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation to all employees; and posting an EEO notice advising employees of its policies against workplace discrimination.

"We filed this lawsuit because all employees have the right to complain about sexual harassment without suffering unlawful reprisals," said EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. "We are pleased that the parties were able to resolve this matter and that PetSmart agreed to a variety of corrective measures designed to prevent future problems in the workplace."

According to its web site, PetSmart, Inc. is the largest specialty pet retailer of services and solutions for the lifetime needs of pets. It operates more than 1,107 stores in the United States and Canada.
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