On June 11, 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that Dillard’s, Inc. will pay $110,000 and provide significant remedial relief to settle a same-sex harassment lawsuit involving its male employees. After unsuccessfully trying to reach a settlement out of court, the EEOC filed the litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (No. 6:07-cv-1496-PCF-KRS).
The EEOC alleged that Dillard’s permitted a sexually hostile work environment at a store in Orlando, Florida. In its suit, the EEOC alleged that a male supervisor engaged in verbal and sexual harassment of a male sales associate and a young dockworker when the supervisor exposed himself, propositioned the men and made sexually explicit and derogatory comments. The EEOC alleged that Dillard’s ignored the complaints.
While denying any wrongdoing, to settle the claims, the store has also agreed to, among other measures, distribute policies prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation, conduct anti-harassment and antidiscrimination training for all employees, train employees who are responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints and post a notice about the resolution of this case.
Every employee handbook or policy manual should include an anti-harassment policy. In addition to defining sexual harassment and listing examples of unacceptable behaviors, a proper policy should also prohibit harassment based upon all protected classifications and contain provisions about: (1) reporting improper conduct to the company, (2) the confidential nature of any harassment investigation, (3) the penalty for misconduct and (4) the prohibition of retaliation.