Coca-Cola sued by former employee who complained of alleged harassment, injury

By Kyle Barnett | Aug 28, 2014

GRETNA – An African-American woman who was formerly employed by Coca-Cola is suing after she was allegedly wrongfully terminated after being injured on the job and subjected to sexually and racially motivated harassment.

Tyressa Gatlin filed suit against Coca-Cola Refreshments in the 24th Judicial District Court on July 21.

Gatlin contends that she was hired to work in the Coca-Cola Refreshments bottling plant in Harahan on Jan. 6, 2010 for the purpose of hiring and managing 10 regional sales managers working in 320 stores around the New Orleans area. The plaintiff claims she was promised a nine month probationary period when first hired during which time she would learn more about her position and responsibilities. However, Gatlin alleges she was never formally trained.

The plaintiff asserts that all other district sales managers were trained in the proper way to lift and move heavy objects and how to use supportive back braces. Gatlin claims that during the scope of her employment she worked 12 to 14 hours per day, on call 24 hours per day and was required to stock and transport Coca-Cola products. The plaintiff alleges that in the scope of her employment she suffered a hernia due to incorrectly lifting heavy objects and that her boss told her she could not physically leave her territory during the day. However, Gatlin alleges she had to leave the territory for a doctor’s appointment due to her injury and that when she returned she was given a written reprimand.

Gatlin alleges she was also disciplined for beginning an investigation, that went to the corporate level, into whether sales associates were expected to purchase via their own means overstock merchandise in order to meet sales quotas. Afterward the plaintiff claims she was placed on a 30-day disciplinary plan and began to be harassed by her boss, including sexually and racially based comments.

Gatlin asserts that due to the injury and the stress of the harassment she suffered a panic attack on the job on May 23, 2010 and her deteriorating health made it impossible for her to return to work and she was granted a six month leave of absence from May 25 to Dec. 23, 2010, but was notified by human resources on Aug. 19, 2010 that she had in fact been terminated.

The defendant is accused of creating a hostile work environment.

An unspecified amount in damages is sought for back pay, lost benefits, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life, foreseeable and unforeseeable damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, prejudgement interest and attorneys fees.

Gatlin is represented by attorney G. Karl Bernard of New Orleans.

The case has been assigned to Division I Judge Nancy A. Miller.

Case no. 740-541.

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