EEOC claims Holiday Inn unlawfully discharged bar manager

Michelle Keahey Apr. 30, 2012, 2:15am

NEW ORLEANS - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against the Slidell Holiday Inn for allegedly retaliating against a bar manager who refused to put up with a customer's harassing behavior.

The suit was filed on April 13 in federal court in New Orleans.

The Commission alleges that Ascension Hotels unlawfully discharged Daniele Lagasse in retaliation for her opposing sexual harassment.

According to the lawsuit, Lagassee refused to allow her female wait-staff to serve a male customer who was harassing the female employees.

Lagasse was hired by the defendant in October 2007 as a bar manager and promoted in January 2008 to food and beverage manager. During her time as bar manager, she was harassed, on at least a weekly basis, by a male customer who frequented the hotel's bar, the suit claims.

The customer's conduct was severe or pervasive and discriminated against the hotel's female employees, the lawsuit states.

Lagasse reported the man's behavior to her supervisors and to the hotel's general manager. After her promotion, she reported the behavior to the defendant's human resources director.

In mid-January 2008, the general manager agreed with Lagasse and said that the customer would not be allowed into the bar and restaurant anymore, but that policy did not last, the suit says.

By the end of January, the customer was allowed back into the bar and Lagasse asked that the male bartender serve him in order to shield the female employees from the hostile and offensive behavior toward women.

While the hotel's general manager was out on leave, Lagasse was ordered to serve the offensive customer or be fired. According to the court documents, the hotel fired Lagasse on Jan. 31, 2008. A few months later, the customer grabbed the arm of another female manager after she requested that he leave the hotel. The manager filed a police report for simple battery and then the hotel banned the customer.

The hotel is accused of unlawful employment practices and depriving Lagasse of equal employment opportunities.

The EEOC is asking the court for an injunction enjoining the hotel from engaging in employment practices on the basis of retaliation in violation of Title VII, to order the hotel to provide training regarding unlawful retaliation and disciplinary actions against employees who have committed unlawful retaliation and for an award of damages for Lagasse for back and front pay, interest, pecuniary losses, nonpecuniary losses, and punitive damages.

General counsel for the EEOC include P. David Lopez, James L. Lee, Gwendolyn Young Reams and Jim Sacher from the Houston District Office and Michelle Butler and Tanya L. Goldman from the New Orleans Field office. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:12-cv-00940

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