Bartender sues employer claiming sexual harassment, retaliation

By Kasey Schefflin-Emrich | Jul 3, 2015

A bartender is suing her former employer claiming a violation of civil rights.

Nicole Culligan of Pittsburgh filed a lawsuit June 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Pittsburgh Steak Co. Inc. and its owner Dean Kostas, alleging wrongful discharge in 2014.

According to the complaint, Culligan began working for the defendants in July 2013 and was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment throughout her employment. She claims the Michael O'Leary, the kitchen manager, would regularly make sexually offensive comments to her and on many occasions made inappropriate physical contact with her.

Additionally, Culligan contends that after her shift ended on Feb. 21, 2014, she consumed a few alcoholic beverages, two of which were handled by O'Leary, and afterwards felt so ill and disoriented that she had go home. She purchased and used a home drug testing kit over the weekend and the results indicated that she ingested an anti-depressant and a benzodiazepine. Given that she doesn't knowingly take any drugs, she alleges that O'Leary put these drugs into at least of one the beverages that she drank that night.

The suit states that Culligan went to the police on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, to file a report over the drugging incident and she also reported the incident and ongoing sexual harassment to Kostas and the company's general manager. While O'Leary was terminated immediately after the complaints, the defendants informed Culligan roughly a month later that they wanted to bring him back to work.

The defendants told her that they would switch her to the afternoon shift so that she would have limited interaction with O'Leary but Culligan said it would not only make her uncomfortable working with O'Leary again but it would be detrimental to her financially as she would make less money during the afternoon shift. Despite Culligan's objections, on March 14, 2014, O'Leary was rehired and Culligan was discharged.

Culligan alleges the sexually hostile environment and retaliation caused her to suffer severe humiliation, mental distress, inconvenience, and loss of income and benefits.

The plaintiff seeks reinstatement, lost wages and benefits, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages; attorney fees and court costs; and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. Additionally, Culligan demands that the defendants be prevented from discriminating or retaliating against her.

Culligan is represented by attorneys Colleen Ramage Johnston and Nikki Velisaris Lykos of Rothman Gordon PC in Pittsburgh.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case number: 2:15-cv-00761-AJS.

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