Almost immediately after she began working there, Eva Biswas says she noticed that one of her managers at the Target in Fridley, Minnesota was always looking at her breasts.
And not just looking – “staring,” in a way that was both “obvious” and “inappropriately sexual,” according to a civil complaint filed last Thursday. When she ran into her manager walking down the hallway, he’d move in and feel her up as he brushed against her. She tried to avoid him whenever she could.
Biswas stuck it out despite her discomfort. She hit her 90-day mark as a cashier and began to ask her manager about promotion opportunities. The complaint says he told her “no,” though “without providing any explanation,” and that she began to watch her fellow hires rise to higher-level positions while she remained stuck as a cashier, according to a lawsuit covered Tuesday by the Business Journal and subsequently reviewed by City Pages.
In April, the complaint says, Biswas “summoned the courage” to ask her manager about a promotion again. “To Biswas’ surprise,” he agreed to discuss it.
Biswas followed him “down a dimly lit hallway” to his “secluded” office, the complaint says. One of the first things she noticed was a pair of men’s underwear slung over the back of a chair. The manager fetched another chair for her, and she sat down. That’s when the manager allegedly scooted his chair right up against hers, picked up the abandoned underwear, and began to wave it in her face.
According to the complaint, the underwear did end up touching her face, and it was then Biswas began to cry. Finally, the complaint says, the manager spread his legs, and put his hand down the front of his pants.
“How do you expect to get a promotion if you don’t do hard work?” he allegedly asked. “If you want a promotion, you’re going to have to do some hard work for me.”
Biswas made a break for it. The complaint says the manager stood up and grabbed her shoulders, but she slipped away, excusing herself from the room.
Target's attorney, Sarah Beth Corris Riskin, declined to comment on Biswas' civil action for this story. A statement from Target says the company is "aware of the lawsuit" and that it "strictly" prohibits "harassment in any form."
"We take all allegations of misconduct seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and take disciplinary action with any team members found to have engaged in misconduct."
According to Biswas’ complaint, the story gets worse.
Later that month, it says, Biswas told the store’s general manager what happened, and allegedly got an “unfazed and unconcerned” response. The assistant manager allegedly stood up and walked away in the middle of her explanation.
As Bizwas started to tell more of her co-workers and managers, the complaint says, she eventually got pulled aside by her general manager.
“Don’t tell anyone else about what happened. You misunderstood Phil, he was only folding clothes,” he allegedly told her.
May rolled around. Biswas called the Fridley Police Department and filed a report about her manager cornering her in his office. After the police officer left her house, the complaint states, she broke down. Biswas is an immigrant from Bangladesh, and she began to feel “an intense despair that the United States was no different than Bangladesh and that both Target and law enforcement would do nothing.”
Around then, per the complaint, she thought about killing herself.
Shortly after that day, Biswas was hospitalized on the recommendations of her psychiatrist and doctor, who were concerned she could end up hurting herself. She remains on medical leave from her job, and she’s now attempting to sue Target for damages “in excess of $50,000.”
The complaint says that one of the reasons Biswas was dismissed when she told management she’d been harassed was that she wasn’t from here.
“You don’t understand American culture,” she was allegedly told. The manager “just wanted to help.”
She responded that she understood all right – that she’d been raped before, that she knew what was appropriate and what wasn’t.
She “began to feel that if she couldn’t escape sexual violence in the United States,” the complaint says, “there was no hope for her anywhere in the world.”