The lawsuit claims that an eight year employee with the Palo Alto, California Starbucks store was subjected to repeated sexual harassment and gender violence by the store manager then retaliated against after she filed a complaint.
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-August-2013 – The Armstrong Law Firm along with the California Civil Rights Law Group has filed a sexual harassment, retaliation, and gender violence lawsuit (Santa Clara Superior Court, Case No. 113CV250801) against Starbucks Corporation. The lawsuit claims that an eight year employee with the Palo Alto, California Starbucks store was subjected to repeated sexual harassment and gender violence by store manager Ted De La Cruz then retaliated against after she filed a complaint against the store manager.
The employee states in the lawsuit that she had been on the receiving end of De La Cruz’s offensive comments and inappropriate behavior including unwanted touching for nearly half of her eight year tenure with the Palo Alto Starbucks store. The lawsuit alleges that De La Cruz also spit on the plaintiff and that Starbucks negligently retained De La Cruz because its managers and supervisors were aware of his sexually harassing and unlawful conduct, but failed to prevent it.
The lawsuit claims Starbucks Corporation and De La Cruz violated The Ralph Civil Rights Act by allowing and inflicting unlawful physical force against Plaintiff because of her gender. Civil remedies available under the Ralph Civil Rights Act include punitive damages.
Prior to leaving his job with Starbucks earlier this year, the lawsuit claims Mr. De La Cruz regularly made illegal sexually graphic and offensive comments to the plaintiff in addition to using his position of authority to engage in other inappropriate and illegal behavior.
The lawsuit claims that during the last four years Starbucks store manager De La Cruz regularly inquired about the intimate details of the plaintiff’s sex life including asking about size of her husband’s penis. The plaintiff refused to answer the inappropriate questions and repeatedly expressed her distress regarding the alleged harassment.
Mr. De La Cruz’s actions are alleged to include, but are not limited to, touching her buttocks, forcing her to look at illicit photographs of De La Cruz engaging in sexual acts, describing vulgar sexual acts De La Cruz had performed, commenting on her appearance and body, telling her that she had gained weight, describing sexual acts De La Cruz wanted to perform on her husband, asking her offensive, intimate questions, and regularly making disgusting sexual comments.
The situation was made worse for the plaintiff as the lawsuit alleges that numerous Starbucks store staff members, supervisors and managers were well aware of Mr. De La Cruz’s pervasive inappropriate comments and behavior but failed to prevent the harassment from continuing in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
The lawsuit also states that multiple employees were also subjected to Mr. De La Cruz’s inappropriate sexual behavior in front of other supervisors and managers, but again Starbucks Corporation failed to prevent its ongoing occurrence in violation of California law.
On February 15, 2013, the plaintiff could no longer tolerate working in a hostile work environment and reported Mr. De La Cruz’s actions to District Manager Tiffany George. During the course of Ms. George’s investigation, the plaintiff was put in an unsafe position as Ms. George revealed the plaintiff’s complaint to staff members despite the fact that the plaintiff told Ms. George that she was “really, really afraid of Ted.”
With the plaintiff’s complaint now public, the lawsuit alleges that managers and staff became hostile toward the plaintiff.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages as Starbucks and its managers had advanced knowledge of Mr. De La Cruz’s unfitness as an employee, employed him with a conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others, and ratified his wrongful conduct by failing to take immediate remedial action.
About The Armstrong Law Firm
The Armstrong Law Firm uses the law to obtain justice and compensation for people who have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, intimidation or unfair employment practices in the workplace. The Armstrong Law Firm has generated millions of dollars in revenue for its clients. Kelly Armstrong is the founding partner of The Armstrong Law Firm in San Francisco, California. She is a lecturer and published author on a variety of issues related to employment law. Ms. Armstrong has represented clients in employment cases against the nation’s largest companies for the past decade and her cases have been featured in the national and international media.