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PRESS RELEASE
9-21-11

Country Fresh Market and Fredericktown Produce Sued by EEOC for Sexual Harassment

Female Grocery Store Employees Were Sexually Harassed, Some Forced to Quit, Federal Agency Charges

PITTSBURGH – A full-service grocery store and produce market in Brownsville, Pa., knowingly tolerated the egregious sexual harassment of a class of female workers by a supervisor in violation of federal law, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

In its federal court complaint, the EEOC charges that since at least July 2008, Country Fresh Market, LLP and Fredericktown Produce, Inc., condoned ongoing, severe sexual harassment of a class of women working in the meat department at their Brownsville store. According to the EEOC’s suit, a male meat department manager repeatedly engaged in unwelcome and offensive physical touching of female workers and persistently made offensive sexual advances, comments and gestures.

According to the EEOC’s suit, female workers who were harassed, as well as other employees, reported the sexual harassment to company management and the store owner. The EEOC charges that the company not only failed to take appropriate corrective measures to stop the sexual harassment, but also that a company official threatened complaining employees with termination. The harassment was so intolerable that two women were forced to quit their jobs, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who opposes sexual harassment or discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for female workers who were subjected to the misconduct.

“Sadly, more than 45 years after the passage of Title VII, sexual harassment remains a serious problem for workers,” said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “No employee should be forced to endure a pattern of unwelcome and offensive sexual harassment in order to earn a living.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence added, “When employees complain about harassment, a smart company should be proactive, take advantage of that advance notice and act to stop the harassment. In this case, unfortunately, the company compounded the problem by threatening the employees who complained. The EEOC will take appropriate action to protect workers from egregious sexual harassment if an employer fails to do so.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.