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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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You Might Want to Have a Policy on That

DES MOINES (CN) - If the allegations are true, a federal lawsuit in Iowa provides a textbook case of why businesses need policies on sexual harassment.

Vanessa Hernandez accuses Brand FX Body Company of sexual harassment and civil rights violations. The company itself is the only defendant.

Hernandez claims a co-worker showed her a picture of his penis; told her "that if he was 'fucking her' she would be in a better mood;" that when she complained to a supervisor he told her "that she should go ahead and 'fuck him'"; that the supervisor proceeded to sexually harass her; and that the human resources manager told her that sexual harassment training was "too expensive," and then fired her.

Brand FX makes fiberglass utility truck bodies. Hernandez was hired in 2012 to clean and prepare fiberglass molds for use.

The lawsuit states: "Beginning in October, 2012, Hernandez was sexually harassed by forklift driver Phil West. Among other things, West propositioned Hernandez for oral sex; told Hernandez the length of his penis, showed Hernandez a picture of his penis on his phone; and told Hernandez that if he was 'fucking her' she would be in a better mood and 'not such a bitch'.

"Hernandez complained to Supervisor Rick Yetmar about Phil West's sexual harassment. Yetmar advised Hernandez that she should go ahead and 'fuck him.'"

Then Yetmar sexually harassed her, Hernandez claims.

"Yetmar told Hernandez that he hired her because 'she was a real bitch,'" according to the complaint. "After a verbal altercation with another female, Hernandez was told by Yetmar that he would love to see a little 'girl on girl action' and that he would provide the Jell-o and sell tickets."

Hernandez says she complained about both men to Human Resources manager Tammy Birchard, who failed to address her complaints.

When Hernandez suggested that sexual harassment training might help, Birchard told her it would be too expensive, according to the complaint.

It adds: "On or about the day prior to Thanksgiving, 2012, Hernandez was walking behind a male co-worker. Another male employee yelled. 'Look out, Joe. She's going to fuck you with her strap-on.' Rap music was playing in the background which included lyrics referring to 'niggers' and 'bitches eating dick like it was corn on the cob.'

"Hernandez complained again to Birchard about the ongoing sexual harassment and vulgar music. Hernandez told Birchard that the lack of discipline toward those responsible was the reason for this ongoing behavior.

"Shortly after complaining to Birchard, another female co-worker was physically attacked and assaulted at the defendant's workplace. After reporting the incident to human resources, the defendant failed to take any action against the perpetrator of the physical attack," Hernandez says.

Hernandez says she was fired about a week after she told Birchard she intended to file a sexual harassment complaint.

She seeks damages and punitive damage for sexual harassment, violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, and "a continuing pattern and practice of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation."

She is represented by Stuart Cochrane with Johnson, Kramer, Good, Mulholland, Cochrane & Driscoll in Fort Dodge.

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