Feds suing Fred Meyer; allege harassment at Oregon City store

The management team has changed since the alleged incidents
by: Anthony Roberts, The Oregon City Fred Meyer store.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., for ongoing sexual harassment it says occurred in the Northwest retailer's Oregon City store on Molalla Avenue.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court last week, the EEOC seeks undisclosed monetary damages and training on anti-discrimination laws for violations of federal law it says stem from ongoing sexual harassment of several female employees from October 2004 to January 2006. While unable to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, Fred Meyer spokesperson Melinda Merrill said both managers involved in the sexual harassment allegations are no longer with the company.

The two-year period referenced in the suit is when store employee Tracey Waxenfelter, of Beavercreek, says a new operations manager at the store started 'constantly harassing' her, according to EEOC attorney William Tamayo.

'He propositioned her, saying that he wanted to have sex with her, asking her to sit on his lap,' Tamayo said.

Waxenfelter, who has worked at the store since 1986, complained to human resources, who turned the case over to an Oregon City store manager, according to Tamayo. The attorney said that the store manager then also began to harass the employee, who filed a complaint with the EEOC in 2006.

'The harassment was continuing throughout parts of 2005. What was really bad is that the store manager had the harasser evaluate Ms. Waxenfelter,' Tamayo said. 'The evaluation was much lower than it had been before she had complained about harassment.'

The lawsuit seeks an injunction forcing Fred Meyer to stop all of the alleged harassment, and would require the company to 'carry out policies, practices and programs which provide equal employment opportunities for all employees.' The lawsuit also seeks damages, in an amount to be determined by the court, to be paid to Waxenfelter and others affected by the alleged harassment. No one else is named in the suit.

Merrill said Fred Meyer will not 'take this lightly,' in reference to the suit. She noted that the company employs more than 30,000 people, and only .014 percent have filed any type of complaint with the EEOC. She also said that Fred Meyer has a 'continual process in place' to train employees on ethics and conduct, and works to give employees a clearly defined path to take if they feel something is amiss at work.

'We have one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry,' she said.

Waxenfelter is currently on leave from the store, Tamayo said.