- Lowe’s has agreed to pay $700,000 to settle U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims that it allowed sexual harassment to occur at its Lake Havasu City, Arizona, location.
- According to the complaint the EEOC filed Aug. 30, Lowe’s allegedly allowed a male employee at the location to make sexual comments toward three female employees in a manner that was “notorious, open, and frequent,” and failed to take action after one victim complained to a manager and used Lowe’s EthicsPoint hotline (EEOC v. Lowe’s Home Centers, No. 3:22-cv-08152 (D. Ariz. Aug. 30, 2022)).
- In addition to paying the $700,000 in damages, the company’s Lake Havasu City store will revise its anti-discrimination policies, promptly and thoroughly investigate claims of sexual harassment, train all employees on sexual harassment, provide letters of reference for the three women and provide reports on training, complaints of discrimination and any revisions to policies and procedures to the EEOC.
As with other complaints, experts say HR can protect workers and the company itself when it receives sexual harassment complaints by following a process of documentation and investigation.
Interestingly, Lowe’s was able to defend itself with documentation in a previous lawsuit alleging investigations into an employee’s conduct and his transfer to a new location amounted to harassment and bias. In that case, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the investigations were infrequent and based on employee complaints. It also noted evidence that the employee wanted to be transferred, had a skill set that would benefit the other location and received a pay raise.
In another case, the 7th Circuit determined a patient call center was not liable for a supervisor’s harassment because it quickly jumped into action. The HR department responded within a week, interviewing both workers as well as other employees. This reportedly resulted in an end to the harassment.
To appropriately handle such situations and defeat accusations of ignoring harassment, HR departments should be empowered and prepared to conduct internal investigations, experts previously told HR Dive.