A Colorado Springs woman who claimed that Wal-Mart fired her after she accused a co-worker of sexual harassment appears to have reached a settlement with the retail giant.
Sherri Anderson, a 40-year-old former Wal-Mart employee, filed the suit in federal district court last year, alleging she was discriminated against because she is a woman. She claimed a store greeter made sexually suggestive remarks, pinched her bottom and tried to grab her breast, causing her "humiliation [and] injury in reputation" at the 3201 E. Platte Ave. Wal-Mart.
As of press time, the case officially remained open. Attorneys with the University of Denver legal clinic representing Anderson say the case is in the settlement process. Citing sensitive negotiations with Wal-Mart, Laura L. Rovner, supervising attorney at the clinic, says she never will be able to comment further on the case.
Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Thornton, however, claims that a settlement with Anderson has been reached.
"It's a closed case," Thornton says. "It has been resolved."
Student attorneys for the clinic pursued back pay for Anderson and punitive damages that aimed to deter any future sexual harassment of female Wal-Mart workers.
The suit alleges that Wal-Mart greeter Vidal Trujillo grabbed and/or pinched Anderson's rear end in December 2002 and made inappropriate comments to her.
"Mr. Trujillo often made these sexual advances in the presence of co-workers and customers, causing Ms. Anderson fear, humiliation and shame," the suit states.
In April 2003, Trujillo "put his hand down the front of [her] shirt and attempted to touch her breast," according to the suit, which says Anderson then wrote down her grievances and gave them to store manager Jay McElroy.
About a month later, McElroy asked Anderson "if she wanted to change or retract her complaint," according to the suit.
"When she refused to change or retract her complaint, Mr. McElroy terminated her."
McElroy did not return calls.
The Independent could not locate Trujillo, and Wal-Mart would not disclose whether he still works for the company.
Anderson waited several months to complain, the suit states, because of a "perception among Wal-Mart employees that management did not take seriously complaints by employees and a perception that employees who complained would be terminated."
Thornton says Wal-Mart has procedures for reporting sexual harassment.
"There's any number of ways that a person can resolve something," Thornton says, noting that the company has a hotline where employees can leave anonymous tips. Wal-Mart also has an "open door" policy that gives employees the incentive to approach managers about problems, he adds.
The company's ethics department generally handles sexual harassment complaints, Thornton says. He says he does not know how many sexual harassment complaints Wal-Mart received in 2005.
"I don't know that that would be anything we would discuss," he says.
Anderson began working as a cashier at the Wal-Mart store in June 2002. She scored "satisfactory" in a performance evaluation and exceeded expectations in relation to at least one goal: scanning more than 500 items per hour, according to the suit. After suffering a back injury, Anderson was reassigned to be a greeter alongside Trujillo.
She now works for a towing company.
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