Rue21 Worker in Georgia Sexually Harassed, EEOC Alleges

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By Patrick Dorrian

A rue21 assistant manager in Vidalia, Ga., sexually harassed another assistant manager, and the teen apparel retailer did nothing to stop it, the EEOC charges in a federal lawsuit ( EEOC v. rue21, inc. , S.D. Ga., No. 6:17-cv-00122, complaint filed 9/15/17 ).

The prevention of sexual and other workplace harassment is one of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s strategic enforcement priorities, and the agency Jan. 10 released for public comment a draft of revised enforcement guidance on the issue. In June 2016, a 16-member EEOC task force issued a report on workplace harassment, which found that places of employment that rely on customer service or client satisfaction are among those most at risk for creating an atmosphere in which sexual harassment can flourish.

The unnamed assistant manager’s harassment of Aarena Scott grew so bad that Scott was forced to quit, the EEOC says in the lawsuit filed Sept. 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. The harassment allegedly included improper touching of Scott’s shoulder, stomach, and breasts and asking her if she was a virgin, the EEOC asserts.

The harassment purportedly began even before the unnamed manager was hired, as she allegedly visited the store as a customer to bother Scott. The harassment also included the unnamed manager telling her—as well as Scott’s partner—that she was attracted to Scott, according to the lawsuit.

The Warrendale, Pa.-based retailer didn’t respond Sept. 18 to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment. ‘The EEOC in a Sept. 18 email declined to comment on the filing.

Complaints Ignored, EEOC Says

Scott’s multiple requests for a schedule change to avoid the alleged harasser were denied, the EEOC charges. Scott also complained numerous times to her store manager and rue21 inc.'s corporate office, but her verbal complaints didn’t result in any effort to rectify the situation. The district manager even joined in on the harassment by texting Scott that her harasser wanted to engage in an orgy with Scott, according to the agency.

Scott ultimately filed a written compliant with her district manager, but she resigned in frustration three days after filing that complaint, the EEOC says.

It wasn’t until Scott resigned that rue21 finally offered to transfer her to a different store. But the proposed transfer was to a store in Douglas, Ga., which was 60 miles from Scott’s home.

This appears to be the first time in the past five years that the company has been sued in federal court for workplace sexual harassment, according to Bloomberg Law analytics.

Attorneys in the the EEOC’s Savannah, Ga., office represent the commission. No attorney had filed an appearance yet for rue21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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