On January 21, 2014, a former Care Center Supervisor at the Restoration Hardware, Inc. call center located in West Jefferson, Ohio filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Restoration.
The employee, Jennifer Stage, claims that she was sexually harassed by her boss and then forced to resign after she complained to HR about the harassment.
According to Stage, she received glowing reviews of her work during her time at Restoration, which included comments about her “go getter” attitude, being a “born leader,” and being “instrumental in improving processes and efficiencies that have had a global impact.”
According to the complaint:
Restoration further reinforced Stage’s excellent work by giving her merit pay increases every year.
Then, in early 2013, Restoration hired a new call center Director: Christopher Dapolito.
Almost immediately, Dapolito began a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior with Ms. Stage and other female employees. Some examples of this sexually inappropriate behavior follow.
At an after-work function at a professional hockey game, Dapolito asked Stage inappropriate questions about her sexual relationship with her husband.
Dapolito frequently called Stage away from her supervisory duties and into his office to tell her sexually inappropriate things such as “close your eyes and open your mouth…I will pop it in.”
Dapolito frequently stood uncomfortably close to Stage and made sexually suggestive and overly flirtatious comments such as inviting her to “come running in the corn” with him.
Dapolito engaged in similar conduct with other female employees of the call center.
After enduring weeks of this inappropriate behavior, on or about June 6, 2013, Stage filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment against Dapolito with Restoration.
Upon information and belief, at least one other female employee complained that Dapolito sexually harassed her.
On June 13, 2013, human resources representative Brie Silveria and Vice President of Operations Kristin Kitterman interviewed Stage regarding her complaint.
Ms. Silveria and Ms. Kitterman conducted interviews with other call center employees.
Stage informed Silveria and Kitterman that she wanted Dapolito’s behavior to stop so she could continue her job in a normal rather than hostile work environment.
Silveria and Kitterman informed Stage that hers was not the first, or only, complaint of sexual harassment against Depolito.
Silveria and Kitterman assured Stage that their conversations and Stage’s complaint would be held in strict confidence.
Immediately after Stage’s confidential interview regarding Depolito’s behavior, inexplicably, Dapolito’s attitude toward Stage changed.
Dapolito refused to answer Stage’s work-related questions. The circumstances of the call center required Stage to periodically communicate with him as the Director.
For the first time, Dapolito informed Stage that he had “serious concerns” about her work performance. Depolito refused to elaborate on or provide details of those “serious concerns.”
Depolito avoided communicating with Stage making it difficult if not impossible for her to perform her job duties properly.
All of these changes followed a series of individual meetings between Restoration’s human resources staff and several call center employees regarding the complaints about Dapolito.
Upon information and belief, Dapolito was allowed to listen in on Stage’s interview with Seliveria nad Kitterman by way of a speakerphone that was connected during the interview.
Upon information and believ, Dapolito was allowed to listen in on other employee interviews with Silveria and Kitterman by way of a speakerphone that was connected during the interview.
Without the information Dapolito learned by listening in on the meetings, he would not have known the identities of the interviewees or the content of their statements.
When Stage noticed a change in Dapolito’s behavior toward her after the supposedly confidential interview, she reported this change in Dapolito’s behavior to her direct supervisor, Alicia Douglas.
Douglas’s solution was to force a confrontation between Stage and Dapolito to address the HR complaint that had been made by Stage against Dapolito.
This “meeting” quickly morphed into an interrogation. Dapolito began disparaging Stage’s work performance and asking her when “this drama would be over with?” It became obvious that Dapolito knew of Stage’s sexual harassment complaint against him and had heard her interview with human resources staff. He threatened, intimidated, and harassed Stage throughout the lengthy interrogation eventually reducing Stage to tears.
Stage then asked to go home for the remainder of the afternoon as she felt she could no longer adequately perform her supervisory job duties because she was distraught and emotionally rattled.
In reply, Dapolito stated, “Ok, so this is your resignation.”
Stage did not wish to resign, but, with the call center Director’s demand for her resignation, intimidation, threats, and harassment her situation was so intolerable that she felt she was left with no choice but to do as her supervisor demanded.
By Defendant’s actions, Ms. Stage was constructively discharged.