Supermarket sexual harassment lawsuit gets underway

A sexual harassment suit against a popular Oswego supermarket has landed in federal court in Syracuse.

A jury began hearing testimony Monday in the case against Paul's Big M Market, owner Karen Connors, and former manager Allen Manwaring.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims its investigation showed sexual harassment was rampant at the store. The EEOC has brought the suit on behalf of three women who lodged complaints three years ago, and eight others who have come forward. Neither the lawyers for the EEOC nor the women they represent would have any comment until after the trial is concluded.

In court papers, the women say Manwaring touched them in sexually offensive ways on numerous occasions, made lewd comments and threatened them if they complained. Connors is accused of not taking appropriate action against Manwaring this allowing a hostile work environment. One employee was allegedly fired for making a complaint.

David Antonucci who represents Connors, Manwaring and Paul's Big M says there's no truth to the charges. "The case law is very clear that single isolated incidents do not constitute a hostile workplace and do not result in this sort of liability. This is clearly what is wrong with class actions against businesses today."

Antonucci also says the women did not file official complaints. "Though they claim to have had numerous complaints, none of them ever notified any of the owners or any of the senior management...making the store unable to respond to the allegations." Antonucci told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.

Two years ago, Allen Manwaring pleaded guilty in connection with a harassment charge in which he allegedly forced his tongue into the mouth of a 17-year-old cashier. "It's a plea of no contest... so I don't believe he pled guilty to the allegations, the plea was a matter of convenience."

A jury of six women and two men were selected Monday to hear this case before Federal Judge Norman Mordue.

Click here to read court documents in this case.