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Fry's Electronics Settles A Sexual Harassment And Retaliation Lawsuit

Meghan Walker
08/31/2012

National retailer Fry's Electronics has agreed to pay out a large settlement to two former Renton store employees. The settlement involves a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. KUOW's Meghan Walker has more.

TRANSCRIPT

Fry's Electronics is a nationwide retailer, employing over 14,000 employees. Five years ago, America Rios was just 20 years old when she was first harassed by the assistant store manager at the Renton store where she worked. She says he sent sexually charged text messages, and invited her to drink with him at his house. Rios reported the harassment to her immediate supervisor, Ka Lam. Lam and Rios took the complaint to the corporate office.

Molly Powell is an attorney with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.

Powell: "Fry's did, just about everything wrong that they possibly could have done."

Fry's corporate officers told Lam to refer back to the store manager. The store manager was friends with the accused harasser. According to Powell, he never interviewed the victim. She says the company botched the investigation.

Powell: "In effect, Fry's allowed the harassers to investigate themselves in this case. There was no neutrality, there was no objectivity. In fact, this investigation was a complete sham."

The lawsuit states Fry's managers turned the accusations on Lam, and accused him of sexually harassing Rios. Lam was subsequently fired. He then contacted the EEOC, who took up the case Rios was fired soon after.

The EEOC then brought the lawsuit against Fry's. Fry's agreed to settle, and pay out $2.3 million to the former employees. A federal judge also ordered the company to pay $100,000 for withholding information in the case.

Rios is happy with the settlement.

Rios: "One thing I have always wanted, after the harassment, with myself, is that no one else will go through what myself and Ka had to. So I want to thank everyone for supporting me and making me feel like this was the right thing to do, most importantly, is to stand up for yourself and believe no matter what anyone tells you, that it's right."

In addition to the fine, the judge ordered a three–year consent decree, under which Fry's must offer ongoing harassment training. In a statement, Fry's denies wrongdoing, but chose to agree to the settlement to end the litigation. The company says it will continue its ongoing commitment to providing a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

For KUOW News, I'm Meghan Walker.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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