A pharmacist at a Mesa County Walgreens store who claimed she was subjected to sex discrimination and retaliation will be allowed to take her allegations to trial, a federal court determined on Monday in refusing the company's request to end the lawsuit.
U.S. District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello found that there were factual disputes for a jury to resolve based on the allegations of Kathryn L. Judson. Specifically, it was unclear whether Walgreens and its employees investigated customers' alleged sexual harassment of Judson, whether the harassment created an abusive work environment and whether a supervisor told Judson she should take the harassment as a compliment.
In January 2020, Judson filed a complaint against Walgreens and two of her supervisors based on federal and state civil rights and anti-discrimination laws. She alleged that when she began working in the Clifton store near Grand Junction in March 2019, she experienced unwanted sexual comments from older, male customers "almost immediately."
The store manager reportedly told Judson she should "take it as a compliment.” Judson later told the district manager, "I do not enjoy this attention … I find it repulsive," but the harassment continued. Eventually, Judson asked for a transfer, the the district manager denied it.
Judson reportedly received written notice that she had violated policies, which she viewed as retaliation for disclosing to another employee that she was investigating her rights in light of the hostile work environment.
Walgreens in turn alleged Judson had temperament issues, wanted to be transferred away from Clifton for other reasons and violated patient privacy regulations.
"While Judson vaguely raised concerns on different occasions that Clifton customers were flirting with her, she never provided any customer names or any details on when the incident occurred or what happened. Without this information, there was nothing Walgreens could do," the company wrote to the court.
Walgreens pointed to Judson's testimony of alleged harassment, which included a customer who "kept trying to come on" to her, a man who took off his shirt to be vaccinated and told her "I'm ripped from head to toe," and another customer who told her to "keep those beautiful blue eyes."
"[E]ven if true — and again, there is no evidence they are — Judson’s allegations would not constitute harassment that is severe and pervasive and based on gender," Walgreens argued.
A jury trial is set to begin on Oct. 18. The case is Judson v. Walgreens Co. et al.