CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) – Weatherford International must go to trial to dispute claims its supervisor-dominate culture let a boss humiliate workers by sticking his finger in their butts, a federal judge ruled.
Headquartered in Switzerland, Weatherford International is one of the world’s largest oil-field service firms. It employs more than 60,000 people and operates in over 100 countries.
Three former Weatherford employees sued the company in May 2014, alleging their boss Joey Estrada used his distinctive body part to assault them.
Estrada was known around the workplace as “Mr. Nub” and “The Nub” because he is missing half a finger, according to the lawsuit as cited in U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos’ July 27 ruling.
Estrada ran a Weatherford crew in Texas and terrorized subordinates with his finger, the plaintiffs claim.
He stuck it in their drinks, licked it and put it in their ears, and threatened to “nub” workers by punching them with the nub extended, the ruling said.
Estrada allegedly made good on his threats to three workers, Ricardo Arredondo Jr., Richard Rabino and Mario Torrez.
They claim that crew members grabbed them and held them down, or duct-taped them so they couldn’t move, and Estrada punched them in the butt with his nub extended and – although they were wearing coveralls – the light material allowed Estrada’s finger to penetrate them.
The trio claims Estrada peppered the assaults with comments such as “Get loose, bitch,” “Who’s your daddy?” and “Do you want to be my bitch?”
The workers claim other Weatherford supervisors witnessed or heard about the assaults and laughed it off, saying “That’s just Joey.”
Though Weatherford maintained an anonymous tip line for workers, the plaintiffs claim they feared complaining could lead to them being fired, or could make them targets for further workplace hijinks.
Weatherford fired Estrada, and either fired or disciplined his flunkies, after a third party who saw him assault Torrez called in an anonymous complaint to the tip line.
Arredondo, Rabino and Torrez all resigned from the company either before or shortly after the investigation that led to Estrada’s firing.
They sued Weatherford for civil rights violations: gender discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile workplace and constructive discharge. They also made state claims of assault, infliction of emotional distress and negligent hiring of Estrada.
Gonzales Ramos trimmed the case down on Monday, but refused to dismiss it and ordered a jury trial.
“Plaintiffs have certainly submitted sufficient evidence to raise a disputed issue of material fact on the severity and pervasiveness of Estrada’s conduct and its effect on their employment,” she wrote, dismissing all the plaintiffs’ claims except their gender discrimination and assault allegations.
It’s now up to a jury to decide whether “Estrada’s conduct constituting alleged assault was perpetrated for the purpose of directing his crew or was ratified by Weatherford through its supervisors who had knowledge and failed to stop the conduct,” Gonzales Ramos wrote in the 19-page order.
Weatherford’s attorney Nickolas Spiliotis did not respond to a comment request. He is with Jackson Walker in Houston.
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