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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Naki Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

June 26, 2019

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
NAKI CORPORATION d/b/a DAISY DUKES & BOOTS SALOON, Defendant.

          OPINION

          JOHN A. GIBNECY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") brought this action against NAKI Corporation ("NAKI") for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 relating to sexual harassment. The EEOC served NAKI with the complaint and summons on November 30, 2018. After NAKI failed to file responsive pleadings, the EEOC moved for entry of default. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), the Clerk entered default on February 26, 2019. The EEOC now moves for default judgment under Rule 55(b).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The EEOC alleges that one of NAKI's managers, Jared Spencer, sexually harassed three servers, Michelle Henard, Bridget Todd, and Joan Min, while they worked at NAKI's restaurant known as Daisy Dukes & Boots Saloon ("Daisy Dukes"). Henard worked at Daisy Dukes from November, 2016, until June, 2017. During that time, Spencer frequently commented on Henard's appearance and asked for sexual favors. He often slapped or grabbed her rear end. He cornered Henard in the bar on a day that he was not scheduled to work and later waited for her in the parking lot. On another occasion, she hid from him in a bathroom. Because of Spencer's actions, Henard became anxious, depressed, and worried about how other male supervisors would treat her.

         Bridget Todd worked at Daisy Dukes as a server from December, 2016, until February, 2017. Spencer treated Todd similarly to Henard. He rubbed his crotch against Todd's rear end, cornered Todd in the walk-in refrigerator by blocking the doorway, and demanded that she leave her boyfriend for him.

         Min worked at Daisy Dukes as a server from January, 2016, until February, 2017. Min and Spencer were involved in a consensual relationship until January, 2017. After they ended their relationship, Spencer treated Min similarly to Todd and Henard. On many occasions, he cornered Min in empty parts of the restaurant to ask her if she missed him, and once he threatened to assault her. Spencer made disparaging comments about other women in front of Min. Min witnessed Spencer harassing Henard and Todd throughout their employment.

         All three servers complained to other supervisors and NAKI's owner, Kimsan Yin, about Spencer's behavior. Yin instructed each server to ignore Spencer. He also changed Henard's schedule so that it did not overlap with Spencer's, resulting in a reduction of Henard's hours. Soon after complaining about Spencer's behavior, the three women resigned. Henard resigned in June, 2017, and did not find a new job until August, 2017.

         II. TITLE VII SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIM

         When a defendant defaults, the defendant admits the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint. Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001). Thus, in reviewing a motion for default judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b), courts accept as true plaintiffs' well-pleaded allegations regarding liability. Id. Courts must then determine whether the allegations support the relief sought. Id.

         Title VII declares that employers may not "discriminate against any individual with respect to [her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's... sex." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).

To establish a Title VII claim for sexual harassment in the workplace, a female plaintiff must prove that the offending conduct (1) was unwelcome, (2) was based on her sex, (3) was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive work environment, and (4) was imputable to her employer.

Ocheltree v. Scollon Productions, Inc., 335 F.3d 325, 331 (4th Cir. 2003). "Workplace harassment that sufficiently alters the terms and conditions of employment is actionable under a 'hostile work environment' theory." Pryor v. United Air Lines, Inc., 791 F.3d 488, 495 n.6 (4th Cir. 2015).

         In this case, the EEOC's complaint establishes the elements of sexual harassment. First, the complaint demonstrates that Spencer's conduct was unwelcome because the women consistently rebuffed his advances. Second, the EEOC alleges that Spencer's conduct was based on the servers' sex. Third, the conduct was sufficiently severe because all three women allege that Spencer often made comments about their physical appearances and sexual acts, touched their bodies without permission, and intimidated them to such an extent that they felt forced to quit. Lastly, the complaint indicates that Spencer's conduct was imputable to the women's employer, NAKI. Spencer worked as a manager for NAKI and supervised Henard, Todd, and Min. All three women complained to NAKI's owner about Spencer's conduct. Accordingly, the EEOC sufficiently pleads the elements of sexual harassment as to all three servers.

         III. ...


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