Worker of the Week – Not

     HOUSTON (CN) – A Kroger employee held a knife to a co-worker’s throat and told him, “I used to rape guys like you in jail,” the co-worker claims in court.
     Robert Salinas sued Kroger Texas on Wednesday in Federal Court.
     Based in Cincinnati, Kroger owns one of the nation’s most profitable grocery store chains. Sales at its 2,640 stores tallied more than $98 billion for fiscal year 2013.
     Salinas says he started working for Kroger in 1981. He transferred to a Kroger in Rosenberg, Texas to be closer to home and his aging mother, and was assigned to the store’s produce department.
     Rosenberg is 34 miles southwest of Houston.
     Salinas says his new co-worker, David Castillo, quickly developed a thing for him. Castillo is not a defendant in the lawsuit.
     The complaint states: “David Castillo grabbed plaintiff’s buttocks while he was bent over and asked ‘When are you gonna give me some of that white ass?’
     “David Castillo further stated ‘If you don’t give it to me I am going to take it away. No one is here in the morning, just you and me. I will rape you and no one will find out. They won’t believe you. You have no witnesses to prove it.’
     “Mr. Castillo further harassed and intimidated plaintiff by stating: ‘You don’t know me, but I used to be locked up. I used to rape guys like you in jail. I’d rather be with a guy than a woman. You have a body like a woman. I really want to be with you.'”
     Salinas says he reported the harassment to the produce manager, who said he would take care of it. But he didn’t, Salinas says, and neither did the store manager, who told him: “I can’t believe that happened. It’s your word against his,” according to the lawsuit.
     Salinas says Castillo found out he told on him and got angry.
     “Following his initial complaints, David Castillo came up behind plaintiff and grabbed his testicles,” the complaint states.
     “While grabbing plaintiff’s testicles, David Castillo asked plaintiff ‘When you gonna give me some?'”
     Salinas says he immediately reported this to the produce manager, who did not believe him.
     Desperate to stop the harassment, Salinas says, he broke down in tears talking about it with another manager, referred to as Ms. Mendoza in the complaint.
     “Ms. Mendoza proceeded to tell another employee that plaintiff came crying to her. Other employees in defendant’s store began calling plaintiff a ‘cry baby,'” the complaint states.
     Management’s indifference seemed to egg Castillo on, Salinas says, until one day Castillo snapped.
     “On April 6, 2012, David Castillo approached plaintiff in a back room and put a produce knife up to plaintiff’s throat. David Castillo verbally threatened plaintiff while holding the knife to his throat,” according to the complaint.
     “Fearful for his life, Robert Salinas stayed out of the back room and remained in the public area of the store for the remainder of the day.”
     Salinas says he reported the incident to Rosenberg police and during their investigation the store manager finally took an interest in the harassment.
     The manager told police that he recalled Salinas complaining that Castillo had pinched his butt, but he “could not explain to the police officer how and if Mr. Castillo was disciplined,” according to the complaint.
     “During Rosenberg PD’s investigation David Castillo admitted to placing plaintiff in a choke hold and threatening him with a produce knife. David Castillo was subsequently convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” the complaint states.
     Salinas seeks punitive damages for gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
     He is represented by Francisco Caycedo of Sugar Land.
     Kroger said it does not comment on pending litigation.

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