Molested in a Tough Job Market, Woman Says
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - Facing a tough job market, a young woman acceded to an employer's demand for a nude photo of her in exchange for a part-time job: then the demands escalated, the woman claims in court.
Rikki Murray sued Islands Franchise Co., Islands Tanning and Med Spa, its owner Jon Guyette and her alleged molester, store supervisor Matthew Farmer, in Multnomah County Court.
Islands Tanning is a spa and tanning franchise with multiple outlets in the Portland metropolitan area.
Murray, then 18, says she was a customer at an Islands tanning salon in suburban Tigard and found out they needed a part-time bed cleaner.
"Plaintiff, an attractive, 18-year old female who had lived on her own since she was a teenager, was in desperate need of a job," she says in the complaint.
It continues: "She approached the store's general manager [Matthew] Farmer, and inquired about the position. Plaintiff explained that she really needed to work because she had broken up with her live-in boyfriend who had stolen all her possessions. She also explained that she was desperate not to get evicted because she did not want to move back home. Farmer strongly encouraged plaintiff to apply. Plaintiff immediately submitted her employment application.
"Soon thereafter, plaintiff received a phone call from Farmer. Farmer - a 43-year old male - told plaintiff the job was hers only if she sent him a nude photograph of herself, which he claimed was condition of getting a job at the Tanning Salon.
"Plaintiff was shocked, but being young and desperate for a job, reluctantly satisfied Farmer's bizarre demand. In response, Farmer told plaintiff she was beautiful and that the job at Islands was hers."
Murray had worked for just a week when Farmer offered her more hours, but told her "that she was going to owe him," according to the complaint.
"During this time period, Farmer repeatedly pestered plaintiff to send him nude pictures of her. Plaintiff initially declined to do so; but when threatened with her job, she reluctantly sent Farmer a partially nude photograph," the complaint states.
Throughout her employment, Murray claims, Farmer made sexist and abusive comments to her, such as "I'd love to tear you up" and "You've never had sex until you've fucked an older guy like me."
Farmer docked her hours after she refused to send him more nude photos, and continued to tell her that she "owed" him, Murray says in the complaint.
In May 2012 Murray called in sick, and Farmer told her she had to "make it up to him" during her next shift, by posing nude for him in a tanning room, according to the complaint.
"No one else was at the store, and plaintiff was scared and felt as though she had no options but to do what he asked," the complaint states.
"Farmer then took several pictures of plaintiff as she stood naked. Farmer directed plaintiff to pose and even smile if she wanted him to stop taking photos.
"After the photos were taken, plaintiff begged Farmer to let her leave but Farmer instead began to sexually molest her. Plaintiff was terrified and began to fight back by screaming and pushing Farmer away from her. Plaintiff was finally able to leave the room without further incident. Humiliated and fearing retribution from Farmer, she did not report the incident to anyone at that time."
Murray became fearful and depressed, but soon learned that Farmer had requested nude photos from another co-worker, which "empowered her to deal with what had happened to her," she says in the lawsuit.
Murray says she told assistant manager Josh Bronson what had happened, and Bronson forwarded the information to defendant Guyette.
Bronson is not a party to the lawsuit.
"Later that week, Farmer angrily corned plaintiff and demanded to speak with her," the complaint states. "Farmer chastised plaintiff for making a sexual harassment complaint against him to Guyette. Farmer told plaintiff that he thought they were 'friends' and had an understanding. Plaintiff was frozen in terror and when Farmer saw plaintiff in tears, he apologized and hugged plaintiff while telling her that in the future, she should only talk to him and not others about his conduct. Farmer also advised plaintiff that Guyette was his friend and her complaints to him would get her nowhere."
Murray says she continued working at Islands, but began to have panic attacks. She says she eventually told Bronson about Farmer's sexual assault. Bronson was sympathetic, she says in the complaint, but told her that Guyette "had dismissed his report out-of-hand and that Guyette had told him that he had seen nude photographs of plaintiff on Farmer's phone."
Murray then filed a police report against Farmer, who refused to be interviewed by police, according to the complaint.
The next day, an Islands employee called Murray and told her that her final paycheck was ready and she needed to drop off her key, according to the complaint. She says she received a form saying she was fired for "not following rules and procedures."
Murray seeks lost wages and compensatory damages for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, whistle blowing violations, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with economic relations, retaliation, aiding, abetting or inciting retaliation, and wrongful firing.
Murray is represented by Mitra Shahri of the Mitra Law Group in Portland.