Wal-Mart settles ethnic harassment suit

NEW YORK Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:22pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc's (WMT.N) Sam's Club settled an ethnic harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which alleged several employees of Mexican descent endured slurs.

Sam's Club, a wholesale chain store, will pay $440,000 to settle the lawsuit, the agency said on Thursday.

The settlement comes as the world's largest retailer is trying to halt the largest class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit in history by female employees who are seeking billions of dollars. That case is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The EEOC lawsuit involved only one associate accused of harassment at the company's Fresno, California, store several years ago, said Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter, adding that the associate was subsequently fired.

"Sam's Club has strong policies against discrimination and harassment," Rossiter said. "When the full extent of the allegations was brought to the company's attention, we took them seriously, they were thoroughly investigated and we took immediate action."

At least nine employees of Mexican descent at the Sam's Club in Fresno, including one who was married to a Mexican national, endured the slurs from a Mexican-American co-worker, the agency said.

The EEOC said that since late 2005, the victims were barraged with frequent insults about Mexicans, including references to Mexicans only being good for cleaning the harasser's home.

(Reporting by Paritosh Bansal; additional reporting by Jessica Wohl; editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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