Employee groped his coworkers and flashed teen customers, feds say. Company to pay

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A company accused of ignoring multiple reports about one of its employees sexually harassing his co-workers and customers over the span of two months is paying to settle a federal lawsuit, officials said.

At two convenience stores in southern Alabama, a store employee was known to flash teenage customers, offered to have sex with them, and asked invasive questions regarding their sex lives in 2020, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

He also solicited sex from his female co-workers and had a habit of disrobing and walking around the store parking lot “in a tight ‘speedo’ style swimsuit or underwear,” the lawsuit said.

Despite repeated complaints, managers transferred him to another store, where he continued to harass others, according to the EEOC. One manager is accused of making “light” of his actions, “calling him ‘different’ and explaining that he was ‘from California,’” court documents show.

Now McDonald Oil, the company running the Summit Food stores in Orange Beach and Spanish Fort, Alabama, where the man worked, has agreed to pay $400,000 to five female employees to settle the lawsuit and their allegations of sexual harassment, the EEOC announced in a Jan. 25 news release.

“Transferring a harasser to work around other women without any corrective discipline does not correct a hostile work environment, it only exacerbates the problem by creating more victims,” EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson said in a statement.

McClatchy News contacted an attorney representing McDonald Oil for comment on Jan. 26 and didn’t immediately receive a response.

The harassment ultimately escalated in the man’s arrest after officials said he sent nude photos of himself, including one showing his genitals, to a store manager on Facebook in August 2020, according to the complaint.

The case

Five women employed by McDonald Oil experienced “severe mental anguish and emotional distress” as a result of the sexual harassment, officials said.

From June 2020 through August 2020, McDonald Oil is accused of allowing the women and its customers to face “severe, pervasive, unwanted, humiliating, degrading and offensive sexual conduct” from the male employee, the complaint says.

While on the job, the employee is accused of touching his female co-workers and customers in a “sexually inappropriate” way on several occasions, according to the complaint.

During one instance, the man touched a female customer around her waist — resulting in her fiancé complaining to management, the complaint says. But the man was never disciplined over this matter, according to officials.

Among inappropriate comments the employee made, he told one co-worker that he had accepted the convenience store job “to have money to pay prostitutes” and would brag about his sex life, the complaint says.

On Aug. 26, 2020, the man was accused of sending nude images to one of his store managers through Facebook, according to the complaint.

After this, he was still allowed to work two more shifts before he was fired, the complaint says.

Ultimately, the store manager who was sent the nude images got the police involved and the man was sentenced to 30 days in jail, according to the complaint.

The complaint didn’t specify where the man spent time in jail or which police department in Alabama arrested him.

“Ignoring numerous complaints about this harasser provided him more opportunity to continue his harassment and to ultimately escalate his conduct into actions that led to his arrest and criminal conviction,” Marsha Rucker, an EEOC regional attorney in Birmingham, said in a statement.

As part of the lawsuit’s settlement, McDonald Oil has to revise its company policies and rules to prevent sexual harassment at work in the future, according to the release. Additionally, managers will be trained on how to respond to sexual harassment complaints.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is in place to prevent sexual harassment at work.

McDonald Oil is based in Georgia, where it runs more gas stations and convenience stores.

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