A woman is suing Fred Meyer and the grocery chain's parent company Kroger, claiming she was the victim of a videotaped sexual assault, racial discrimination, and "extremely vulgar and sexual comments" while employed at a warehouse in Tacoma.
McGary's lawsuit describes all manner of boorish behavior at the Fred Meyer facility, including an incident where one coworker "went so far as to expose his genitalia" in front of her. Other allegations outlined in the court documents include "patently false" rumors that McGary provided sexual favors to male employees, and a claim that the "N word" and other racially-charged language was commonly used at the workplace.
The ugly situation reportedly "came to a crescendo" on March 25, 2009, when two men barged into McGary's office. One of the men held McGary's head down while the other "made it appear that she was engaging in an act of oral sex with him." The second employee recorded the "simulated sex video" on his cell phone, posted it on MySpace and YouTube, and showed it to other warehouse staffers. McGary was "mortified, shocked, and stunned by this event," the court documents state. She filed a formal complaint with her manager two days later, and eventually quit "because her employer could not guarantee her physical safety."
McGary did not immediately respond to an interview request sent through her attorney Paul Lindenmuth, but the lawyer says his client described the Freddy's warehouse as "a pretty wild and wooly place to work."
"It's pretty humiliating, demeaning stuff," Lindenmuth says of the allegations. "It falls under the category of egregious, as far as her coworkers' actions. It was despicable."
Amanda Ip, a spokeswoman for Fred Meyer, questions the timing of McGary's lawsuit -- it was filed just as the statute of limitations for civil actions was set to expire -- and points out that the two men accused of the videotaped sexual assault were promptly fired.
"[McGary] never complained about any form of sexual or racial assault prior to this one incident where she did tell her manager," Ip says. "She did tell us she was uncomfortable and was going through emotional response following the incident. We gave her a leave of absence and from there she submitted a letter of resignation. She never really attempted to come back to work."
Lindenmuth says McGary was eventually hired by a local utility company, and that the delayed filing of the lawsuit was due to investigation on his part, and failed settlement negotiations with representatives from Fred Meyer and Ohio-based Kroger Co, which also operates QFC supermarkets. The lawsuit doesn't specify a dollar amount for damages McGary is seeking, but attorneys for Fred Meyer write in court filings that they anticipate a claim of more than $75,000.
Ip says her company takes sexual harassment allegations like the ones made by McGary "incredibly seriously," and that the crude behavior described in the lawsuit is "a rare, rare case." Lindenmuth, however, says there had been several "reports of what I would call untoward events," at the Fife warehouse prior to McGary filing her complaint.