In Aryain v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas LP, the Fifth Circuit held that a former Wal-Mart employee could proceed with her harassment claim against the company. More specifically, the court reasoned that a jury could conclude that a female employee subjectively perceived her work environment at Wal-Mart to be abusive or hostile and that Wal-Mart failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct her male supervisor’s harassing behavior.
The employee started work as a cashier in Wal-Mart’s tire and lube department on February 25, 2005. For the next four months, she was allegedly harassed by her supervisor who made remarks about her physical appearance and crude sexual advances. When the employee’s father made a complaint about his daughter’s alleged mistreatment, Wal-Mart transferred her to another department, away from her former supervisor. The record, however, revealed that the employee had allegedly made a previous complaint to another supervisor about the supervisor’s harassing conduct, but nothing had been done in response. Additionally, the employee presented evidence that a female co-worker had also previously complained about the same supervisor’s harassing conduct.
Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the employee could proceed with her harassment claim, reasoning that a jury could find that Wal-Mart failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct the supervisor’s behavior and that the employee perceived her work environment to be subjectively hostile or abusive. This case serves as a reminder to all employers that complaints of harassment should be taken seriously and investigated promptly. Prompt and effective remedial action is crucial in defending an employee’s claim of harassment and demonstrating that the employer exercised reasonable care.