Manufacturer May Be Liable for Lewd Manager
(CN) - A former sales representative for National Oilwell Varco can proceed with claims that her manager told her to let a client's employee perform oral sex on her to "lock down that account," a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania rejected the company's motion to dismiss a complaint filed by former administrative assistant Elizabeth Crooks.
Crooks started working at NOV's distribution services center in Troy, Pa., as a temp administrative assistant in 2009. She was hired in February 2010, and her account representative, Jason Smith, soon promoted her to an inside sales representative.
The Houston-based NOV manufactures mechanical components for land and offshore oil drilling rigs. It reportedly made more than $20 billion in revenue last year.
Crooks accused Smith of a litany of sexually harassing behavior, including calling her "a dumb fucking cunt" daily and telling her to "shut the fuck up," women do not belong in the oil field, "money talks and bullshit walks," and it was "his way or the highway." Smith allegedly said he had powerful friends at NOV and would "beat up" anyone, male or female.
Crooks said Smith once hit her chair with a plastic "wiffle ball" bat and said her "head was going to fucking roll if [she] didn't get her sales up."
She said the manager would gather male employees to look at images of nude women on the sales room computer a few times a month for 30 to 45 minutes, and once forced Crooks to tell him about an embarrassing sexual situation, which he shared with the rest of the office.
Smith allegedly threatened to fire anyone who would charge the company with sexual harassment and to "beat the shit out of" his wife for highlighting her hair, calling her "a stupid fucking bitch" who looked "like a fucking whore."
He also discouraged Crooks from applying for another position with NOV because she had "tits," Crooks said, and added that the job would likely go to a male employee because "bros before hoes."
The "last straw," according to Crooks, came in 2010 after an oil producer's employee told her she needed to go to the back of his trailer so he could perform oral sex on her. When Crooks told Smith about the incident later that morning, Smith allegedly slammed his hand on his desk and asked her why she did not appease the man, as NOV was trying to "lock down that account."
Crooks soon told Smith's manager, Nathan Smidt, that she was resigning. Smith was discharged on July 14, 2010 after an internal investigation revealed that he had falsified inventory count sheets, cursed and was an immature, poor leader.
Crooks sued NOV in Federal Court, and cross-filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, alleging hostile work environment sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation.
Rejecting NOV's motion for summary judgment on Friday, Caputo held that a reasonable jury could infer that Smith's conduct was "severe or pervasive" and was based on Crooks' sex.
"Crooks has adduced evidence that she repeatedly told Smith that his comments and behavior offended her and may constitute sexual harassment, but he did not stop," Caputo wrote. "In addition, she has presented evidence that she talked to Smidt, a regional manager, several times about Smith's 'inappropriate sexual behavior.' Crooks testified that one such discussion occurred after Smith told her that applying for an outside sales representative position was a waste of her time because she had 'tits' and that women did not belong in the oil field. She testified that Smidt responded to her concerns by laughing and saying that Smith was joking. When viewed in the light most favorable to Crooks, the record shows that NOV failed to take reasonable care to promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior by Smith."