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January 16, 2003
Babies 'R' Us Settles Same-Sex Harassment Suit
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ies "R" Us, Inc., a division of Toys "R" Us, has agreed to pay Andres Vasquez $205,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The lawsuit charged the company with subjecting Vasquez to a sexually hostile work environment because of his sex, male, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A consent decree settling the litigation was entered earlier this week with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The initial suit, filed on March 6, 2002, alleged that throughout his employment Vasquez was the target of unwelcome and derogatory comments as well as behavior that mocked him because he did not conform to societal stereotypes of how a male should appear or behave. The lawsuit alleged that Vasquez had no reasonable alternative but to resign in light of the unwillingness of the company's managers to prevent the behavior from continuing.

Babies "R" Us denies that any violation of Title VII occurred. The consent decree was entered into by the parties without any admission of guilt and for the purpose of resolving the matter.

As part of the settlement, Babies "R" Us also agreed to create and maintain copies of records relating to any complaint of sexual harassment at any of its stores and facilities in the state of New Jersey. In addition, the company will provide annual training sessions to all its employees in the state covering the employer's obligations and the employees' rights under Title VII as well as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

The training will emphasize the law concerning harassment and prohibitions concerning retaliation for complaining about illegal employment discrimination or participating in a proceeding concerning such an allegation. Finally, specialized training for all human resources department staff will address how the company intends to meet its obligation to conduct a prompt and effective investigation into any complaints of employment discrimination it may receive from its employees, according to the EEOC.

Although the EEOC does not statistically track instances of same-sex harassment per se, the commission notes that sexual harassment charge filings nationwide by males have increased from 10 percent of all sexual harassment filings in Fiscal Year 1994 to 15 percent of such filings in FY 2002.

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