Hotel at Phila. International Airport faces sexual harassment claim

Jon Campisi Nov. 11, 2011, 9:40am

A Philadelphia woman who claims that her more than two-year employment at a hotel at Philadelphia International Airport was marked by pervasive sexual harassment has filed a federal complaint against her former employer and a handful of former coworkers.

Philadelphia attorney Leonard K. Hill filed the sexual harassment complaint Nov. 8 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of city resident Tiffany Weaver.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Starwood Hotels & Worldwide Inc., doing business as the Sheraton Suites Philadelphia Airport, as well as Starwood employees Ron Tonari, James Walton, Walter Mapp and Artece Wilson.

The complaint alleges that Weaver, who was hired in October 2008 to work as a cook at the airport hotel, experienced various forms of sexual harassment on the part of her defendant coworkers, all of them men.

According to her lawsuit, from the time of Weaver’s hiring to the time of her termination in January of this year, the plaintiff was harassed, assaulted and subjected to a hostile work environment at her place of employment because of her gender.

“The sexual harassment Plaintiff endured at the Facility was pervasive and occurred on a daily basis,” the suit claims. “Specifically, Plaintiff was subjected to sexual innuendos and propositions, sexually explicit discussions and unwelcome touching and grabbing.”

The ongoing harassment made it difficult for Weaver to work, the suit claims, causing her undue stress and making her feel extremely uncomfortable.

The lawsuit also alleges that management knew about the harassment, but made no attempt to stop it. It’s even alleged that some harassment took place in front of Weaver’s own supervisors.

The suit claims that defendant Tonari, identified in the complaint as the culinary supervisor, would often brush his body against the back of Weaver’s body, pressing his groin into her backside, telling her she was “sexy,” and asking her personal questions, such as what type of men she prefers.

After Weaver complained to a superior about Tonari’s alleged conduct, the defendant himself wrote Weaver up for not following orders, the suit states. Weaver claims the write-up was retaliation for her reporting Tonari to management.

Defendant Walton also brushed his body up against Weaver’s on occasion, and engaged in verbal harassment against the plaintiff, the lawsuit states.

Weaver complained about Walton’s actions to the executive chef, also a supervisor, who said he could do nothing about the activity; “boys will be boys,” is what the supervisor allegedly told Weaver, according to the complaint.

After complaining to the executive chef, the suit claims, Weaver’s hours were cut from five days a week to three.

“This reduction in Plaintiff’s hours was a direct consequence of her complaints over the sexual harassment she was enduring,” the lawsuit states.

Defendants Wilson and Mapp would also frequently grab Weaver and make inappropriate comments to her, the suit claims.

In early January 2011, the lawsuit states, just before Weaver’s termination, Defendant Mapp publicized on the Internet that Weaver had accused him of sexual harassment, an announcement that led other employees to attack Weaver on Jan. 30, the same day the lawsuit claims Weaver was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for complaining about the various incidents of sexual harassment she endured at work.

The lawsuit contains counts of sexual discrimination and harassment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, and assault and battery.

Weaver seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, lost wages and benefits, damages for pain and suffering, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life, attorney’s fees and other court relief. She also seeks an injunction preventing the company and its employees from engaging in similar harassment in the future.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06972-LDD.

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