A woman who worked for two years at the Raritan Borough Petco store has filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Petco's parent company, Petco Animal Supplies. She claims that she and other women at the store suffered sexual harassment by the store's grooming station manager, who was also abusing dogs brought in for grooming. She complained to management and was told her complaint was confidential and that no retaliation would be tolerated. Nevertheless, she faced a series of adverse job actions and was ultimately terminated, she says, in retaliation for her complaint.
The woman was hired as a grooming assistant in Sept. 2010. After about three months, she says, she witnessed the grooming station manager "grabbing dogs by the neck, choking them and slamming them against tables or walls." Since she was so new, she was reluctant to lodge a complaint, although she did try to intervene in person. Nevertheless, the animal abuse continued on what she calls a habitual basis.
Over the same period of time, the woman says, the grooming station manager sexually harassed her and two other women. He allegedly did things such as poking their breasts and grabbing their breasts. The unwanted touching was embarrassing and uncomfortable, so she tried to avoid him, but they worked closely in a small room.
For whatever reason, however, neither of the other women filed complaints, and no one else seemed aware of the problem. Finally, after two years had passed, she complained to a manager. Her complaint was sent up the chain of command, and a district manager told her not to be concerned about complaining. Such complaints are confidential, he said, and the company would not tolerate retaliation.
Instead, she was pulled out of an employee training program she had entered and her hours were changed so they would be inconvenient. One day, she came into work and found all of her grooming tools missing. She was fired less than three months after making the sexual harassment and animal abuse complaint.
“As a national pet supplies chain, Petco should have taken [her] complaints that an employee was physically harming pets with the utmost seriousness,” says the lawsuit, as reported by a New Jersey Press Media reporter. “Instead, Petco unlawfully fired [her] to silence her protests and dissuade other employees from making similar complaints.”
The lawsuit seeks reinstatement to her job, compensation for her economic losses, and punitive damages, which are meant to punish defendants for wrongdoing.