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Dollar General settles sexual harassment claim at Kent County store

Dollar General has agreed to pay $50,000 to a former Kent County assistant store manager who a federal agency alleged was sexually harassed at work by her boss and transferred to a different location after she told management.

The discount retail chain’s agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s lawsuit settled EEOC’s claim that the store violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination.

Tennessee-based Dollar General admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher Tuesday.

Company representatives did not immediately respond Friday to a message seeking comment on the settlement.

“Employers should ensure that managers, and all employees, follow their anti-harassment policies and do not engage in unwelcome harassment,” EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson said in a statement announcing the settlement. “Employers should also advise all workers that harassment complaints will be investigated and acted upon appropriately and without retaliation.”

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, the Rock Hall store manager began sexually harassing his assistant less than a week after she was hired in May 2016. The harassment involved crude and sexually charged comments and non-consensual touching, including the time he ripped at her blouse, EEOC alleged in its complaint filed Sept. 25, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The assistant manager told company management of the harassment, and she was transferred to a store in Chestertown, which added an hour to her commute and provided a less convenient work schedule, EEOC alleged.

She quit on July 31, 2016, because she found Dollar General’s response to her sexual harassment complaint inadequate, EEOC said.

In addition to the $50,000 payment, the settlement also requires Dollar General to train its supervisors and human resource staff on their obligations to prevent workplace sexual harassment and to respond properly to complaints. Dollar General will also provide annual reports for the next two years to EEOC on all sexual harassment complaints at its stores and what management did in response.

“Much harassment goes unreported and often occurs without witnesses,” Debra M. Lawrence, EEOC’s regional attorney, said in the commission’s statement.

“This charging party was particularly brave to speak up about the harassment,” Lawrence added. “Dollar General’s transferring her away from the harasser, to a more distant store, is the type of response which does not facilitate workers’ willingness to come forward and report harassment. Employers should be reminded that harassment complaints can be valid, even when no one else will come forward to corroborate the allegations.”

The lawsuit was docketed in the district court as EEOC v. Dolgencorp LLC t/a Dollar General Stores Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02956 SAG.

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