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Paul's Big M to pay $1.2m in loss of EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit

2011-01-27

January 21, 2011

A jury in a federal district court in New York returned a $1,260,080 verdict against Paul's Big M in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the EEOC.  The suit against Paul's Big M grocery store in Oswego, NY charged that a class of female employees, many of whom were teenagers at the time were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment by the store's general manager since 2001. 

The harassment included egregious acts of verbal and physical sexual conduct by Allen Manwaring, the general manager.  Manwaring suggested a sexual threesome with one teenage cashier's mother, stuck his tongue in another teenage cashier's mouth and grabbed and touched the breasts and buttocks of other women.  The women testified that Manwaring made sexual propositions, described his sex life with owner Karen Connors, to whom  he was engaged, made lewed gestures to employees and touched and grabbed them in private areas.  Witnesses cited the relationship between Manwaring and Connors as one reason why the store and Connors refused to take action in response to repeated complaints.

Manwaring testified that he pled guilty in 2008 to one criminal count of harassment in the second degree in satisfaction of four other charges after four women complained to the police.  Connors testified that as a result of this plea, he was given a 30-day suspension.

The harassment continued until Manwaring was fired in 2010 for sexually harassing another young woman.  This woman testified that she was pressured by the company not to reveal the harassment or the reason for Manwaring's termination.   Many other women were forced to quit since the company refused to take steps to stop the harassment, despite the numerous complaints.

The jury verdict in favor of EEOC awarded $1,250.000 in punitive damages against the company and awarded an additional $10,080 to 13 women to compensate them for the emotional pain and suffering they endured.