Weis Markets will pay $75,000 to settle EEOC lawsuit alleging it failed to stop sexual harassment

Dive Brief:

  • Weis Markets will pay $75,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sexual harassment and disability discrimination suit, EEOC announced Tuesday.
  • According to EEOC, a supervisor at a Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, location created a sexually hostile work environment for an employee through inappropriate comments and unwanted physical contact. A witnessing supervisor failed to report the conduct, and a general manager also failed to stop it upon being informed, the agency said.
  • Moreover, according to the EEOC suit, Weis Markets required the harassed employee to participate in counseling through an employee assistance program — even though management had no reason to believe she couldn’t perform her job, or was a danger to herself or others. Refusal to participate in this program led to management firing her. 

Dive Insight:

The EEOC brought the October 2023 suit citing the anti-sexual harassment provision in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the agency also cited the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

This is far from the first time that a grocery store chain has been embroiled in discrimination suits. On the disability front, Sprouts Farmers Markets paid $280,000 after allegedly denying deaf applicants accommodations during the job process. Likewise, a handful of grocers have made headlines for allegedly allowing sexual harassment at work, including Safeway, Kroger and Pic-N-Sav.

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson called out grocery store management for strong-arming an employee into a mental health program. EAP programs are “valuable resources” for workers seeking personal and professional support, but, Williamson said, the employer requirement “may very well violate rights protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the right to be free from medical examinations and disability-related inquiries that are not job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Acknowledging Weis Markets was working “in good faith” with the agency, EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said in a statement, “This settlement provides fair compensation to the aggrieved employee in question, and going forward, it also promises to greatly benefit Weis Markets’ workers, the company, and the public interest.”