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Blockbuster reaches settlement in Maryland sexual harassment suit

Video rental giant, Blockbuster, has agreed to settle with employees that claimed they were sexually harassed while working at a Maryland distribution center. The victims, several temporary female workers, say they were subjected to sexual harassment and inappropriate advances and allege that supervisors retaliated against them for rejecting the advances and reporting the misconduct. Blockbuster will pay over $2 million to settle the case.

According to the lawsuit, filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of the victims, several supervisors sexually harassed several female workers at the Maryland facility, requesting sexual favors and dates, asking explicit questions and making inappropriate physical contact.

One worker also claims she was targeted by racial comments and subjected to unfair hours, work standards and training. She and her mother were both terminated after resisting the advances, with the lawsuit claiming that Blockbuster failed to take "reasonable preventative or corrective action" when the workers complained.

The lawsuit alleged that in discriminating against these women, Blockbuster violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Seven workers were allegedly targeted by the sexual discrimination, with the EEOC claiming that four of these women were also subjected to national origin and racial discrimination.

A spokesperson for the EEOC says the lawsuit should teach employers to respect and protect the rights of their temporary personnel. She issued a statement in which she claimed that employers that contract staffing agencies often "fail to create systems to prevent and detect abuse of temporary workers and fail to respond forcefully to it."

Source: Business Insurance, "Blockbuster settles sexual harassment retaliation charges for $2M, "Judy Greenwald, Dec. 15, 2011

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