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Originally published July 6, 2012 at 6:17 PM | Page modified July 7, 2012 at 2:09 PM

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Fry's ordered to pay $100,000 for 'deceptive' actions in lawsuit

A federal judge in Seattle fined Fry's Electronics $100,000 this week for withholding information in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of two employees.

Seattle Times business reporter

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A federal judge in Seattle fined Fry's Electronics $100,000 this week for withholding information in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of two employees.

The EEOC suit charged that Fry's improperly fired Ka Lam, a supervisor at Fry's in Renton, after he protested that an assistant store manager was sexually harassing a young female employee.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik ruled this week that Fry's, a consumer-electronics retailer headquartered in San Jose, Calif., destroyed computer hard drives with information that might have been relevant to the case and withheld information such as a prior claim of sexual harassment by the same manager.

"Judge Lasnik took this matter seriously and sent a strong message to this employer and other litigants that the court will not tolerate discovery abuses and hide-the-ball litigation tactics," said John Stanley, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC, in a statement.

Fry's attorney, Michael Griffin of the Jackson Lewis law firm, declined to comment.

The EEOC sued in September 2010 after Lam filed a complaint with the commission alleging that Fry's terminated him in retaliation for protesting the treatment of the employee, America Rios.

Rios had reported that the store's assistant manager repeatedly sent her text messages in which he offered her alcohol even though she was underage, invited her to his home and made sexual references.

The judge also sanctioned Fry's for not disclosing until recently that the assistant store manager had been investigated by the company over an earlier accusation of sexual harassment in 2001.

He also found that notes taken by the Renton store manager about Rios' complaint had been removed from the files.

Fry's "has deliberately engaged in deceptive practices that undermine the integrity and orderly administration of these proceedings," Lasnik wrote in his ruling.

In addition to fining Fry's, Lasnik ruled that evidence about prior sexual-harassment complaints at Fry's will be admissible at trial, which is scheduled for Nov. 5 in Seattle.

Johanna Somers: 206-464-3714 or jsomers@seattletimes.com.

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