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Virginia's Family Dollar settles sexual harassment suit

In the United States, employees are protected from sexual harassment in the workplace by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, while sexual harassment is strictly prohibited, many metro Washington, D.C., residents know that it does still happen.

Just yesterday, Family Dollar Stores of Virginia, Inc. settled a sexual harassment suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The discount retailer will pay $45,000 to settle the suit.

According to the EEOC, an employee in a Richmond, Virginia, store was sexually harassed by her male manager. The woman worked at the store between August and September 2009, during which time the manager groped her and propositioned her for sex. The manager reportedly cut her hours, and said that she would not have them reinstated unless she invited the manager into her home. The woman did not and she quit her job the very next day.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Family Dollar said it will provide its employees with copies of the company's anti-discrimination and complaint procedures and with training on the topics therein. Family Dollar will also post information about sexual harassment in all of its stores.

In general, the law recognizes two types of sexual harassment and it appears they both may have been present in this case. This first type is called hostile workplace sexual harassment. This type of sexual harassment means that the employee has been exposed to sexually offensive comments, e-mails, jokes, photographs or other materials. In most cases involving a hostile workplace, it is necessary for the plaintiff to be able to show that he or she was damaged by the offensive conduct. Additionally, it is typically necessary for the plaintiff to report the conduct to a supervisor or manager.

The second form of sexual harassment is known as quid pro quo, which is Latin for "this for that." Quid pro quo refers to pressure by an authority figure to grant him or her sexual favors or unwanted touching in exchange for favorable treatment at work. In the Family Dollar case, the woman was asked to have sexual relations with her boss in order to keep her hours at work.

Due to the sensitive nature of sexual harassment cases, it is often best to consult with an experienced employment law attorney about how to best resolve your sexual harassment problem.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Family Dollar Stores of Virginia to Pay $45,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit," Jan. 11, 2012

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