Customers Sue Sears Because Changing Rooms Aren’t Free Peepshows

Facing yourself in the mirror of a changing room can be a tough experience in itself (bathing suit season, ugh — am I right, ladies?), but to find out that someone has been peeping on what you thought was a private clothes-changing session is extra uncool. Sears is being sued by about 25 people alleging a former maintenance man hid video cameras and taped women in one of its dressing rooms.

According to CBS 2 in Los Angeles, the suit was filed on Monday on behalf of plaintiffs alleging they were the victims of a peeping tom employed by Sears.

The man was arrested on April 12 and is facing 30 criminal counts of peeping into a changing room with the intention of invading an individual’s privacy and 30 criminal counts of using a concealed video recording device inside a changing room. Allegedly, cameras installed by the man were linked to laptop computers and triggered by motion sensors, and had been in place for around three years.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for a wide range of things: negligent hiring, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and hostile work environment, harassment, retaliation against the employees who came forward in the case, supervision and the fact that the man stayed an employee of Sears.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs allege that Sears turned a blind eye, despite the man’s suspicious behavior dating back to 2009.

Sears isn’t commenting on the lawsuit due to pending litigation; however:

“But as we said previously and with all due respect to the associates who may have been impacted by this incident, no member of management or leadership in the company had any prior knowledge of the accused’s alleged conduct until it was discovered in our store. At that point, we immediately launched an investigation and turned the matter over to the police,” said company spokesperson Kimberly Freely.

Lawsuit Filed Against Sears On Behalf Of Peeping Tom Victims [CBS 2 Los Angeles]

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  1. Vox Republica says:

    They had tried to run a proper background check, but every time they called, somebody at the search agency had lost the paperwork, and showed no record of their original order. Sears was absolutely flabbergasted: what kind of company repeatedly, almost willfully, does such substandard work—and expects to succeed?

  2. leprofie says:

    Sears just can’t catch a break this week.

  3. Costner says:

    I suppose we need to wait until more facts come out, but if Sears did act promptly when the issue was discovered and if they did contact police, then I can’t really hold them responsible for what some rouge employee does illegally even if it happens on store property.

    For example, if an employee sneaks into the warehouse a few times a day to snort a line of coke, I am not about to blame Sears or claim they were responsible for the employee’s drug habit. If he decides to sell some of his coke to fellow employees, again I’m not going to blame Sears and claim they are part of a drug ring. The employee alone is responsible for his or her illegal acts unless the store knew about it and failed to act.

    I do take issue with the fact it appears this had been going on for several years without anyone in Sears knowing… that could be negligent on their part since they didn’t notice cameras filming people in the dressing rooms.

    That said, the plaintiffs are claiming negligent hiring? Really? Unless the guy had a previous conviction for peeping, how exactly is Sears supposed to predict what he would do years later? I doubt there is a question on the application that asks if someone would ever consider filming people in changing rooms.

    Also, intentional infliction of emotional distress? Not sure that is valid either because from first hand experience when you walk into a Sears store you pretty much have already admitted you are willing to suffer emotional distress. That is almost a given so responsibility is shared on this one.

    • Auron says:

      You turn corporate apologizing into an art form.

      • Costner says:

        Give me a break – you think a company should be held responsible for anything and everything an employee does on their premises merely because they are an employee?

        If Sears didn’t act on this and dragged their feet even for two days then by all means nail them to the wall, but if they did as they claim and contacted LAPD as soon as the cameras were discovered then I’m less likely to hold them accountable.

        What I DO have a problem with is that this apparently had been going on for three years, and per another related story involved up to 60 cameras. How does that go unnoticed? If that is true, then yes Sears was negligent.

        Hopefully you’ll understand the last part of my initial post was sarcasm, but maybe I should have used the /s tag.

        • incident_man says:

          Please allow me to play devil’s advocate. Isn’t a company’s management (and their subordinates) ultimately responsible for the actions of their subordinates while on the job, especially if management becomes aware of any bad behaviour? Is there no accountability at all in place? If not, then why do so many companies have policies, like a “social media” policy, that limit worker rights in the name of limiting corporate liability?

          When I worked for Sears, they tried to get us to sign off on a “social media” policy so broad that I wouldn’t sign off on because it violated my First Amendment right to free speech. The policy stated that if I said ANYTHING about a competitor’s product WITHOUT disclosing my employment (e.g. being an average Joe), even if it was the truth and even if it was on MY TIME, and it was discovered I was a Sears employee after the fact, that Sears could terminate my employment solely for that reason w/o recourse.

          I refused to sign said policy until they acknowledged, in writing, that I could say what I want on my own time, as long as I didn’t disclose I was a Sears employee.

          If there is supposed to be no corporate accountability for an employee’s actions, why have the employee sign such a draconian policy?

          • Costner says:

            Please allow me to play devil’s advocate. Isn’t a company’s management (and their subordinates) ultimately responsible for the actions of their subordinates while on the job, especially if management becomes aware of any bad behaviour?

            That is my point though… if Sears was aware of it then yes they should be held responsible. However if an employee walks into a store, punches in, and then proceeds to walk out and shoot a customer…. is the employer really to blame? I guess I just don’t see why an employer should be responsible when an employee goes off on their own and does something that is blatantly illegal.

            Perhaps there is shared responsibility, but my frustration is people just sue because the company has deeper pockets. In this case, none of the people suing can even prove they are on video, so there is no evidence (as of yet) that they were ever actually in the dressing rooms that had cameras in them… but that won’t stop them from suing.

            Is there no accountability at all in place? If not, then why do so many companies have policies, like a “social media” policy, that limit worker rights in the name of limiting corporate liability?

            Perhaps the question is – when it comes to illegal acts does a workplace policy have any bearing? I would guess Sears doesn’t have a policy that says workers are prevented from filming people in changing rooms, but rather they may have some generic statement that covers all illegal and unethical acts. Does that prevent them from being responsible? I somehow doubt it… such disclaimers don’t ever work that well.

            When I worked for Sears, they tried to get us to sign off on a “social media” policy so broad that I wouldn’t sign off on because it violated my First Amendment right to free speech. The policy stated that if I said ANYTHING about a competitor’s product WITHOUT disclosing my employment (e.g. being an average Joe), even if it was the truth and even if it was on MY TIME, and it was discovered I was a Sears employee after the fact, that Sears could terminate my employment solely for that reason w/o recourse.

            Kind of unrelated – but I agree with you that it seems to be a violation of your Constitutional rights. I wouldn’t have signed it either.

            I refused to sign said policy until they acknowledged, in writing, that I could say what I want on my own time, as long as I didn’t disclose I was a Sears employee.

            If there is supposed to be no corporate accountability for an employee’s actions, why have the employee sign such a draconian policy?

            Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying a company is NEVER responsible for an employee’s actions, but there has to be a line.

            Let’s say that same employee I spoke of earlier (who punched in and shot a customer), walked in to the same store on his day off and shot a customer. Would the company still be accountable for that? Why or why not? Should it really matter if the person was punched in at the time?

            I’m of the belief that if someone does something that is entirely illegal like assaulting a customer, an act of violence, selling drugs, filming customers in changing rooms, stealing from customers etc, etc… things that aren’t even debatable whether or not they are illegal – that the employee should bear the brunt of the burden. There may be cases where an employer allowed things to happen due to a lack of oversight, or simply ignoring it… and then yes they should be held accountable, but if it is something they couldn’t prevent and something which was entirely the fault of the employee I simply don’t see why the company should be held accountable.

            I’m not saying this situation is black and white – and we don’t even know all the facts… but I get frustrated at people suing whoever has the deepest pockets just because they are somehow associated with the “wrong” that occurred. It would not shock me in the slightest to find lawsuits not only against that particular Sears, but against Sears Corporate, the people who own the building (if it is a leased property), and whoever else might have a large bank account. It isn’t about justice – it is about getting paid.

    • GoldVRod says:

      “I can’t really hold them responsible for what some rouge employee does “

      …however rosy their cheeks may be.

    • who? says:

      Hiring practices are actually important here. If the plaintiffs can show that Sears either a) knew that the guy was a perv but hired him anyway, or b) didn’t do any kind of background check at all, then the plaintiffs probably have a case. An important part of security 101 is not hiring someone who is a known security risk. Even for a low level maintenance position, I’d assume Sears would be required by their insurance company to do some sort of background check, mostly to keep the level of employee theft down to manageable levels. If they didn’t do that, they may have a problem. On the other hand, if they did some a background check and didn’t find anything, then hiring practice doesn’t come into play.

    • bluline says:

      So what happens when the employee who sneaks into the warehouse to snort coke gets into a Sears company vehicle and kills someone on the way to a service call? I definitely think Sears would be on the legal hook for that.

      • Costner says:

        I don’t know… would they? Should they? Can a company really control what an employee does when that employee is willing to break the law?

        I am thinking of cases where an employee went nuts and walked into work and shot a few coworkers. Should the company / business really be responsible when an employee does something like that?

        There can be contributory negligence – and in this case (the original article) if Sears knew about it and didn’t act, or if they didn’t take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening etc I could see them being at least partially responsible, but sometimes humans just do stupid and/or illegal things and no company policy will prevent them. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see why anyone other than the ignorant jackass who broke the law should be responsible if nobody else could prevent it.

        • Auron says:

          Customer brings in a computer to Geek Squad to be fixed. Geek Squad employee intentionally damages computer beyond repair. In your world, Best Buy wouldn’t be responsible for replacing said computer since a company isn’t responsible for the actions of their employees.

          • Costner says:

            Actually that is correct – Best Buy’s insurance company would be paying for the damage (which I believe is AIG) so Best Buy themselves wouldn’t be responsible for the damage, and depending upon Best Buy’s policies that employee could find themselves being charged with a crime (I have no idea if Best Buy simply fires people, or if they prosecute for such misconduct).

            So in a way, Best Buy would still not be responsible even though in your scenario I can’t imagine them telling the customer to go away if for no other reason than it would be another customer service nightmare for them. Of course it is Best Buy we are talking about… anything is possible.

    • Kuri says:

      People who have been fired over Facebook posts might disagree.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Once Sears became ‘aware’ they said they launched an investigation and turned the matter over to police. Says nothing about firing, suspension, warning or discipline. Although dressing camera more than likely could’ve placed by an employee. I’ve heard stories of dressing room spying before in big stores. I’m wondering if Sears failed to act upon previous incidents elsewhere meaning check the dressing rooms for hidden cameras..

      Did the plaintiffs just notice hidden cameras but Sears didn’t know who placed them?

  4. Cat says:

    “ . . . despite Gamiz’s suspicious behavior dating from 2009, Sears intentionally turned a blind eye,” according to Alder.

    What was this “suspicious behavior”?

  5. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    …hid video cameras and taped women…

    I don’t think “taped” or “filmed” are a valid verbs any more when talking about video recording.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      digitalized?

    • dru_zod says:

      I’m very particular about the use of this terminology. Filming something means you are recording it on film (35mm, 16mm, etc.), taping is recording onto video or audio tape, and assuming you are recording onto digital media (hard drive, memory card, etc.) I would just call that recording. I have also heard “digital capture.” It irritates me when I see people shooting something with a video camera and they say they are “filming” it.

  6. bhr says:

    I heard a radio report of this. If Sears failed to 1)follow up on customer complaints 2)Ignored evidence or 3)act on suspicious/criminal acts then they should have their asses nailed to the wall.

    My issue with the suit, as I understand it, is that none of the people in the complaint have proof that they were actually spied on (or “injured” legally).

  7. Invader Zim says:

    Well what better room is there for peeping?

    • Jane_Gage says:

      The sick toilet cam fucks may beg to differ. I guess it’s subjective.

    • Costner says:

      College (female) Volleyball team and/or gymnastics team locker room / shower room anyone?

      I’ve seen the people who shop for clothing at Sears… pretty sure I can think of a LOT better places to hide cameras, but I suppose this chucklehead was having a hard time getting a maintenance job at Victoria’s Secret.

  8. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “Customers Sue Sears Because Changing Rooms Aren’t Free Peepshows”

    Totally agree. He should have at least tipped them. You know…some singles here and there.

  9. ScandalMgr says:

    The Sears hiring manager probably relied upon Spokeo for this employees hiring credentials by doing what a commenter on that thread said yesterday

    “I’m going to start making up all sorts of awesome fake stuff about myself and put it all over the internet. It’ll save me the trouble of actually lying on my resume…”

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      Sounds like it could potentially be a fun project, with some risk of being found out. During you interview, you’re asked about your hobbies, and you nonchalantly describe “outdoor recreation” and “volunteer work for a charity”.

      Then in the process of Googling you, they see you scaled Mt. Everest last month, and finished 5th in the the Boston Marathon, raised $3 million for “Orphans with Diphtheria” and founded a 200,000 acre wildlife refuge in Tanzania.

  10. JoeTheDragon says:

    negligent hiring more like useing job personality tests that force you to lie to get past them.

  11. Cat says:

    Pictures.
    Or it didn’t happen.

  12. FedoraFetish says:

    The confusingly worded headline led me to believe someone was filing a lawsuit over not being allowed to look into the dressing rooms!

  13. Blitzgal says:

    According to the article, the cameras were in operation for three years without being discovered. There’s gotta be some negligence on the part of the store there.

  14. Sound Money Girl says:

    This is the closest Sears to my house. I knew the second I saw the Consumerist article that it would be about this particular Sears. It gets very low traffic, it’s in a sketchy neighborhood, and it’s next to a strip club.

  15. pk says:

    Seriously. Is this like the last guy in the world who hasn’t heard about porn on the internet?

  16. sp4rxx says:

    I’m wondering how it was hidden. Because, unless the ladies’ changing room is completely different from the men’s, there doesn’t seem to be any way to hide any type of electronics w/o seeing it.

    The only way I can think of, and it is the most expensive way (I would think), is to install two-way glass and hide the camera behind the mirror.

    I will say that guy has balls though!

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I will say that guy has balls though!

      Yes, and he’s going to need them with the lovable 300lb cell mate I hope he gets.

    • StarKillerX says:

      With many of the cameras on the market I can easily understand them not being discovered, especially with him working maintenance.

    • RandomLetters says:

      Cameras have gotten so small these days that hiding one is fairly easy. Hiding the whole package of camera, motion sensor, laptop and cables seems like a much more difficult job. I expect anyday now he’ll mysteriously disappear and begin his new job working for the FBI, CIA NSA or some other government alphabet group…

    • bben says:

      Former surveillance video installer here. 2 way mirrors are rarely used except on tv or movies.

      I could install a video camera nearly anywhere, and could even put one in your office while you were there without you noticing. If I had time, any light fixture, any wall outlet, a wall clock, a fake sprinkler head, fake smoke detector and many other common objects can be used. The fake sprinkler head or smoke detector is illegal in most places, but all it needs is a bit of metal in the overhead for the magnet to stick to – Installs in seconds. I could walk into your office and ask a question, and ‘accidentally’ leave behind a small object laying on a side table that looks like it belongs there but is really a camera. If I have a few seconds alone in your office, a binder with a camera could be placed in a bookshelf with other binders that look just like it.

      Normally covert is done with the full knowledge of management and installed after hours.

  17. incident_man says:

    Please allow me to play devil’s advocate. Isn’t a company’s management (and their subordinates) ultimately responsible for the actions of their subordinates while on the job, especially if management becomes aware of any bad behaviour? Is there no accountability at all in place? If not, then why do so many companies have policies, like a “social media” policy, that limit worker rights in the name of limiting corporate liability?

    When I worked for Sears, they tried to get us to sign off on a “social media” policy so broad that I wouldn’t sign off on because it violated my First Amendment right to free speech. The policy stated that if I said ANYTHING about a competitor’s product WITHOUT disclosing my employment (e.g. being an average Joe), even if it was the truth and even if it was on MY TIME, and it was discovered I was a Sears employee after the fact, that Sears could terminate my employment solely for that reason w/o recourse.

    I refused to sign said policy until they acknowledged, in writing, that I could say what I want on my own time, as long as I didn’t disclose I was a Sears employee.

    If there is supposed to be no corporate accountability for an employee’s actions, why have the employee sign such a draconian policy?

  18. Sarek says:

    My astonishment is that the cameras, motion detectors, etc. had been working for 3 years. Obviously, they weren’t bought at Sears. They probably worked right out of the box, too.

  19. spmahn says:

    I dunno, does a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public changing stall at a retail store? I’m not so sure on that. Granted, they SHOULDN’T be recording people in there, but it may not necessarily be illegal, especially is they have notices posted.

    Ever been to Old Navy stores that have those changing stalls in the middle of the store that only have a half assed curtain to close? I’ve never seen anyone using one, but I can’t imagine anyone but a person with a voyeur fetish doing so.

    Hell, with mini spy cameras and cell phone cams these days, there’s nothing stopping other women or even other men from recording in a locker room or bathroom and selling the video to perverts on the internet.

    Privacy is dead, we all just have to get over it.

  20. u1itn0w2day says:

    If Sears didn’t take precautions after this incident shame on them. From the consumerist as a matter of fact.

    http://consumerist.com/2008/04/peeping-tom-sears-manager-sued-for-27-million.html

    Sears had 4 years to get their act together for dressing room security/privacy.

  21. dru_zod says:

    I’m a guy, but I’ve always been a bit paranoid when using changing rooms at any store. Stories like this will not make me any less paranoid, though most of the time you hear of stuff like this it is in the women’s dressing room or restroom. I wonder if this has ever happened in a men’s dressing room.

  22. Boo LaRue says:

    This is precisely why I no longer try on clothes in stores. I’d rather go through the trouble of having to return something later.

  23. Libertas says:

    I remember watching an episode of Good Times where Willona’s job was to watch people in changing rooms behind a two way mirror.