Whole Foods supermarket. That trendy, somewhat hippie garden of organic and all that’s “good for you.” One of their stores is in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One day, a male customer visited the store wearing white cycling shorts. Per the design of said shorts, he was going commando. There are many problems with white cycling shorts-they are see–through. Apparently it was the “whole view” at Whole Foods.
Now, my wife and I are avid cyclists, and we wear cycling shorts. You would too if you climbed on a seat like those on our bikes. Let me assure you all of our shorts are black. Why? Because black cycling shorts are not see-through. The lighter the color, the more “at risk” you are. Trust me. We ride rallies every year with thousands of cyclists, often including the Hotter ‘N Hell in Wichita Falls, Texas, the last Saturday of August. And the idea of wearing any sort of underwear with cycling shorts is scarier than not wearing underwear. The manufacturers know this and usually compensate for it. But I digress.
Four female employees of Whole Foods immediately complained to the Whole Foods store manager. The manager did nothing to remove the cyclist from the store. Surprised? Here’s the kicker: these employees sued Whole Foods because of it. Did I mention they were all fired before they sued?
They claimed the store provided negligent supervision by allowing the cyclist to remain, and that the store fostered an environment of discrimination and sexual harassment by allowing customers to walk around in too-thin clothing. This, they alleged, caused them emotional distress. And one of the employees claimed she suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome for having to deal with the see–through cyclist without the manager’s help.
Unfortunately, the judge actually let this case get to a jury. It took 8 days to try, which had to cost Whole Foods many tens of thousands of Whole Dollars. And after all the hullabaloo, the jury didn’t buy the gals’ arguments. Their case was more transparent than the shorts.
Bottom line, no pun intended? Employers do not have a duty to evaluate customers’ fashion statements and cover the eyes of adult employees who may object.