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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Karenkim

October 19, 2012


Per curiam.


EEOC v. Karenkim, Inc.

Argued: August 23, 2012

Before KATZMANN, WESLEY and LYNCH, Circuit Judges.

Plaintiff-Appellant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") appeals from a post- judgment order entered on June 17, 2011 by the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Mordue, C.J.), which denied the EEOC's request for injunctive relief against Defendant-Appellee KarenKim, Inc. following a jury verdict finding KarenKim liable for sexual harassment and fostering a sexually hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. and New York State law. We hold that, in the circumstances of this case, the district court abused its discretion in denying any injunctive relief to the EEOC. At minimum, the district court was obliged to craft injunctive relief sufficient to prevent further violations of Title VII by the individual who directly perpetrated the egregious sexual harassment at issue in this case. Accordingly, the post-judgment order of the district court is VACATED and the case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

This case requires us to determine whether a district court abuses its discretion where, in the face of egregious acts of sexual harassment perpetuated by a single employee, it declines to order injunctive relief directed toward ensuring that that individual is no longer in a position to continue his harassing conduct. We conclude that it does.


After a two-week trial, pursuant to a Complaint brought by Plaintiff-Appellant the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), a jury returned a verdict finding that DefendantAppellee KarenKim, Inc. ("KarenKim"), a grocery store operating in Oswego, New York under the name Paul's Big M Grocery, had: (1) subjected a class of female employees to a sexually hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and (2) sexually harassed the Plaintiffs-Intervenors Andrea Bradford, Judith Goodrich, and Deborah Haskins, in violation of Title VII and New York State law. The jury awarded both compensatory and punitive damages to a class of ten individuals who it found had been victimized by KarenKim and its former employee, Allen Manwaring.

The following facts were adduced at trial, and are undisputed for purposes of the instant appeal. KarenKim is owned and managed by Karen Connors. In January 2001, KarenKim hired Allen Manwaring, who was then in his mid-30s, as Store Manager. Within months, he and Connors became "romantically involved." App. 1851. They have been engaged since 2006 and have a young son together. Manwaring is now in his mid-forties.

At trial, a number of current and former KarenKim employees testified that Manwaring repeatedly subjected them to both verbal and physical sexual harassment. The verbal harassment consisted mainly of sexual comments, questions, and innuendoes. Emily Anderson, for example, testified that soon after she began working at KarenKim, when she was 16 years old, Manwaring began commenting on her appearance in sexually explicit terms. She also stated that Manwaring had insinuated that he would like to engage in a sexual relationship with Anderson and her mother. Similarly, Anna Miller, also age 16 when she started at KarenKim, testified that Manwaring would make comments of a sexual nature to her on a daily basis and compliment parts of her body. He also told her that if he were her boyfriend, he would never "let [her] out of his sheets" and commented that, "if he was 10 years younger, he would be on top of [her]." Id. at 1013-14, 1026. In another example, Andrea Bradford testified that Manwaring had discussed his sexual frustrations with her, and then commented that one day he would "pick [her] up" and engage in sexual relations with her. Id. at 885.

As to physical harassment, several witnesses testified that Manwaring would regularly touch, massage, and engage in other inappropriate conduct with teenaged female KarenKim employees. For example, Anna Miller said that when she was working alone in the front office, Manwaring would come in and deliberately brush her breast with his arms, come up behind her and put his crotch against her buttocks and whisper in her ear or breathe on her neck, put his hands on her hips and squeeze, rub her shoulders, put his arm around her and hug, or walk by so closely that his hand would brush her buttocks. Similarly, Emily Anderson testified that Manwaring touched her almost every time he found her alone by massaging her shoulders, touching the back of her hair, and rubbing her thigh. As another example, Abigail Murray said that when Manwaring spoke to her, he would often stand "really close," put his hand on her shoulder, and "lean in," invading her "personal space bubble" and causing her to "cringe away." Id. at 393. Rachel Johnson echoed this testimony, stating that, when speaking to her, Manwaring would stand very close with his arm bent and a hand on her shoulder, and pull her closer until they were face to face. Similarly, Amanda

Cole testified that Manwaring would "squeeze" in behind her in the tiny alcove by the cash register and "press" against her, "body to body almost." Id. at 621-22.

Manwaring's conduct did not go unnoticed. Former KarenKim Manager Carol Akers asserted that "[p]retty often, . . . maybe at least twice a week," she saw Manwaring "[g]iving [female employees] hugs, . . . standing behind them, giving them a back rub, putting his hands on their shoulders." Id. at 224. Amanda Cole testified that she often discussed Manwaring's conduct with other employees, stating that it was "chattered about on a daily regular basis." Id. at 632. She stopped participating in such conversations, however, after Manwaring called her into the stock room and confronted her about "rumors that he heard that [she] was spreading . . . about him sexually harassing employees," adding that she was "lucky that he didn't fire [her] right then and there." Id. at 637-38. Afraid she would be terminated from her first job, she started crying. Manwaring then hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, and whispered in her ear that "if he was gonna sexually harass anybody, it would be [her]." Id. at 638.

KarenKim had no anti-harassment policy until mid-2007, and did not have a formal complaint procedure until after the trial in this action. Nevertheless, several KarenKim employees complained to their supervisors about Manwaring's conduct. The first to do so, Angela Hamlin, complained to her manager, Carol Akers, that Manwaring had touched her inappropriately and had asked her questions of a sexual nature, such as how much she charged for sexual acts. Shortly thereafter, Hamlin was terminated for absenteeism. Several other witnesses testified that they had complained about Manwaring's conduct. For example, Emily Anderson testified that she complained to KarenKim Manager Marlene Davis because Manwaring had told another employee that he wanted to engage in sexual relations with Anderson. However, according to Anderson, Davis had hurried away and did not follow-up on the conversation as she had promised. In addition, Akers testified that Anna Miller complained to her and Davis that Manwaring had told ...

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