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Complaint: Sexual harassment by Lowe’s employee occurred for more than 10 years

Three women were awarded a $700,000 settlement from Lowe’s hardware company last week in reference to accusations of sexual harassment at the company’s Lake Havasu City location. And according to court documents, that harassment may have been ongoing for more than a decade.

According to the federal complaint filed against the company in August, incidents of sexual harassment may have been ongoing at the Havasu location since 2009, with the offending party now identified as Lowe’s Pro Service Specialist William Wetzel.

Plaintiff Heather Kaino was hired to work at the store in September 2008, the complaint said, and worked alongside Wetzel in a customer service and sales role, five days a week. The complaint says that during that time, Wetzel subjected Kaino to unwelcome sexual conduct on a daily basis, which included inappropriate sexual comments and innuendos.

Attorneys in the case say that Wetzel often referred to Kaino as “lunch,” and commented on her appearance. Wetzel also allegedly discussed his sex life in front of Kaino, and made sexual remarks both to and about the plaintiff. According to the complaint, Kaino repeatedly told Wetzel to stop – and attorneys say that Wetzel’s behavior was so brazen that Lowe’s managers had long been aware of it, and failed to stop Wetzel’s alleged behavior from continuing.

Kaino reportedly complained of Wetzel’s behavior to several Lowe’s managers on multiple occasions. According to the federal complaint, Wetzel’s alleged behavior continued unabated, as managers failed to take measures to address it.

In December 2018, Kaino filed a report about Wetzel’s alleged sexual harassment through Lowe’s EthicsPoint hotline, before taking short-term disability leave due to stress and anxiety that her attorneys say was caused by Wetzel’s continued harassment.

According to attorneys, fellow plaintiff Chris Bucolo began working at the store in 2017, and was herself frequently exposed to sexual comments and innuendos allegedly made by Wetzel.

During her employment, the complaint says that Bucolo heard Wetzel making open statements about how he likes to have sex, his sexual performance with his wife, and statements related to his manhood. Bucolo also allegedly witnessed Wetzel thrusting his hips and simulating oral sex; and witnessed Wetzel’s routine behavior toward Kaino.

Bucolo also filed complaints against Wetzel through the store’s EthicsPoint hotline. Attorneys say Wetzel’s alleged behavior continued unabated, during which he allegedly harassed other employees, including fellow plaintiff Daya Ward.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint against Lowe’s on Aug. 30 in U.S. District Court against Lowe’s, for the company’s alleged failure to prevent sexual harassment of employees by Wetzel.

Lowe’s agreed to pay a $700,000 settlement for the three plaintiffs on Friday.

As part of the settlement, Lowe’s also agreed to revise its anti-discrimination policies, and to promptly and thoroughly investigate complaints of sexual harassment. Store employees will receive sexual harassment training, and letters of reference will be provided to the three plaintiffs.

Attempts to contact Lowe’s for comment on this story were unsuccessful as of Wednesday afternoon.



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