MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – An employee at a north metro Target store is suing the company, claiming that a manager told her that he’d only promote her if she complied with his sexual advances.
The suit also claims that the store’s staff didn’t respond appropriately when the worker reported the harassment. Instead, they told her to keep it to herself and that she, an immigrant from Bangladesh, misunderstood what had happened.
Eva Biswas, of Fridley, filed a civil lawsuit last week in Hennepin County Court, seeking damages of more than $50,000 due to emotional distress and loss of income.
The lawsuit alleges that shortly after Biswas began working at the Target location on 755 53rd Avenue in Fridley last November, a manager there, only identified in the complaint as “Phil,” would stare at her breasts and purposely brush up against them as he passed her in the hallways.
Biswas claims this behavior made her avoid Phil, but she eventually needed to talk to him after months had passed and she still hadn’t received a promotion.
When she first asked Phil about the possibility of moving up from the cashier counter, she was met with a quick and firm “no,” the complaint states.
Later, when other workers began to notice Biswas hadn’t gotten promoted, Phil agreed to talk with her about potential training.
The complaint says that on April 20 Phil led Biswas into an office room, locked the door and dangled underwear, which had been laid on a chair in the room, in front of Biswas’s face.
Phil began touching himself and Biswas started to cry, the complaint states. Phil allegedly told Biswas that she had to do “hard work” for him if she wanted a promotion.
“I’m not going to give you a promotion unless you do the hard work for it,” he allegedly said.
In response, Biswas began to sob and left the room.
At first, Biswas didn’t mention what happened to anyone, the complaint states. But after suffering stress and anxiety, she spoke to the general manager, who told her to go back and talk with Phil about what happened.
In shock over the general manager’s response, Biswas claims she then spoke to the assistant manager, who “simply walked away” as she was explaining what happened.
In the following days, after some of the store’s senior staff had apparently met to discuss the incident, another manager approached Biswas and told her that she misunderstood what had happened with Phil.
“Phil just wanted to help you,” the manager allegedly said. “You don’t understand American culture because you’re from a different country.”
Biswas claims that she knows full well what is appropriate for the workplace, adding that she was a victim of sexual assault in the past.
About two weeks after the April 10 incident, Biswas began to suffer suicidal thoughts and was hospitalized, the complaint states. She remains on medical leave from Target.
In response to the lawsuit, the Minneapolis-based retailer released a statement saying that it strictly prohibits harassment in the workplace and that its managers are obliged to report potential misconduct.
“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and take disciplinary action with any team members found to have engaged in misconduct,” the company said.
Target says an anonymous hotline is available for workers to report any concerns.