- Georgia-based McDonald Oil Co. will pay $400,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced Jan. 25. The company runs several convenience stores in Georgia and Alabama.
- According to EEOC’s complaint, a male employee at an Alabama store subjected a group of female employees to a litany of sexually inappropriate remarks and unwanted sexual touching. Although the women repeatedly reported incidents to multiple store managers, a district manager and the CEO, they took no action, except to eventually transfer the harasser to another location, EEOC said. No disciplinary action was taken until one manager herself received an inappropriate message on social media — which included nude photos — after which she involved the police, the complaint alleged.
- In addition to paying $400,000 to five affected employees, McDonald Oil Co. will revise its sexual harassment policies and procedures, train its management on documenting and investigating sexual harassment complaints and train employees in their rights when it comes to sexual harassment, EEOC said. McDonald Oil Co. did not respond to a request for a comment by press time.
Sexual harassment remains a pervasive issue in certain industries. Workers file sexual harassment complaints in food services and retail — a crossroads of industries for the convenience store — at some of the highest rates.
EEOC has also released data showing the South accounts for a disproportionate number of filings, with Alabama leading among charges filed with the agency between FY2018 and FY2021.
When companies operate with multiple locations separate from the HR department, they may be at particular risk for compliance violations. Such situations reinforce the need for proper manager training in workplace law, including in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, experts have noted.
A 2019 study from pelotonRPM found that managers are ill-prepared to deal with harassment, discrimination, bullying and other complaints from workers. Roughly a third did not detail next steps or a potential investigation, and more than half did not explain that their company has an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy.
To counter managers’ confusion, employers need to provide them with clear guidance, optimize training, communicate important policies in a clear way and have the CEO regularly send a workplace ethics update, pelotonRPM recommended.