Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Subsidiary of Kroger loses $30.6M lawsuit

By Jim McNair jmcnair@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        One of the largest sexual harassment verdicts ever returned — $30.6 million — has been awarded to six women who claimed they were harassed by a manager for a Kroger-owned subsidiary in California.

        Ruling for the women, the San Diego Superior Court jury in Vista, Calif., ordered Ralphs Grocery Co. to pay each of the women $5 million in punitive damages. They will share $550,000 awarded for emotional distress.

        Ralphs store director Roger Misiolek was accused of harassing four cashiers, a bookkeeper and a bakery department manager at six Ralph's stores from 1987 to 2000, said the plaintiffs' lawyer, Philip Kay of San Francisco. Mr. Kay said Ralphs ignored their pleas for help.

        “This verdict certainly delivers a very powerful message to our nation's corporations — that they must act responsibly or they will be held accountable for the actions of their managers and employees,” Mr. Kay said.

        Kroger bought Ralphs in 1998. It said it is pondering its legal options.

        “Kroger has had a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment since the 1980s,” said Gary Rhodes, spokesman for the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain. “It includes a procedure that enables employees to point any concerns to the company. All complaints are thoroughly investigated.”

        Mr. Rhodes said Mr. Misiolek is no longer with the company.


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