Nifty Fifty's sued over retaliatory firing stemming from sexual harassment complaints

By Jon Campisi | Feb 24, 2012

A former waitress who worked for a popular retro Philadelphia eatery has filed a federal discrimination complaint against the business, alleging she was fired in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment.

Bensalem, Pa. attorney Ari R. Karpf filed the employment discrimination complaint Feb. 22 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Dawn Lalumera of Lower Bucks County, Pa.

The defendants named in the suit are Philadelphia-based Nifty Fifty’s and Philadelphia resident Stephen Washington.

Washington became Lalumera’s manager at the popular eastern Pennsylvania eatery, which contains an atmosphere reminiscent of a mid 20th century diner, in mid 2010, the lawsuit states.

Lalumera, who worked for the Northeast Philadelphia restaurant for more than a decade, immediately began experiencing discriminatory treatment soon after Washington became her supervisor, the suit states.

Washington often subjected the plaintiff to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, which took the form of unwanted sexual comments and advances and jokes about Lalumera supposedly having had sex with a busboy, according to the complaint.

Following the harassment, Lalumera made several complaints to restaurant management, but she was denied the opportunity to make an official written complaint detailing her problems, the suit claims.

After Washington learned of the complaints made against him, he subjected Lalumera to an “extremely hostile work environment and pretextual admonishment/discipline,” the lawsuit contends.

Washington repeatedly criticized Lalumera, belittled her work performance and required her to perform tasks outside of her job description, the lawsuit alleges.

All of this was done in retaliation for Lalumera having made a complaint against Washington, the suit states. All the while, Washington allegedly continued to make unwanted sexual comments toward the woman.

In January 2011, the complaint states, Washington made “threatening” statements to Lalumera because of her complaints of sexual harassment, including telling her that she “wouldn’t win the battle” and that he could terminate her.

In early April 2011, Lalumera complained about the treatment she had been receiving to the corporation’s owner.

Soon after, Lalumera was suspended from her job. When she returned, she was terminated. The termination came on May 3, 2011, the same day on which she told management she would be documenting what had been going on and her intent to report the same to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The company officially informed her she was being fired for job performance concerns.

The lawsuit contains counts of hostile work environment, retaliation, and interference and retaliation.

Lalumera seeks to have the defendant cease its custom of harassing and retaliating against employees.

She also seeks to be compensated for lost and future earnings, pay increases, bonuses and benefits.

Lalumera also seeks liquidated and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees and other litigation costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00929-PD.

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