Pennsylvania Record

Monday, September 16, 2019

Sexual harassment case against Ika-Works settled

By Chandra Lye | Apr 24, 2017

PHILADELPHIA — A woman alleging workplace discrimination settled her lawsuit in January, one month after the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the defendants' motion for summary judgement.

A former employee of Ika-Works filed a lawsuit claiming harassment and discrimination against the German company, which makes products for the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries.

North Carolina resident Courtney Gatter filed the suit, which claimed the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Terms of the settlement are not disclosed in court records.

The case stems from an incident in 2014 when she was working as an account manager and attended a sales training meeting in the Balearic Islands in Spain. During the trip, the company’s owner, René Stiegelmann, allegedly behaved in an inappropriate manner that amounted to discrimination against her because of her gender. 

While on the trip, Gatter became sexually involved with the owner’s son, Marcel Stiegelmann, according to court records

After the owner found out about the relationship, he was upset with the plaintiff and allegedly made inappropriate and sexist comments.  

The relationship between the Gatter and Marcel Stiegelmann continued for the duration of the trip but caused tension.

Once Gatter went back to the United States, she did not see Marcel Stiegelmann again but they texted each other discussing the future. 

A group of advisers for the business discussed the situation and Gatter's conduct of engaging in such a relationship while on a business trip, according to court documents. They also discovered Gatter and the son had kept in touch.

They decided to terminate her employment, and Gatter responded with a lawsuit. 

Court documents indicated that it was the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove prima facie case of sex discrimination. The court said Gatter was expected to prove she was a member of a protected class, qualified for the job, suffered an adverse employment action and that members of the opposite sex were treated more fairly or be able to prove the firing was a result of intentional discrimination.

The court said his discussions with her was enough to prove her case.

“Plaintiff has provided evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that all five elements of a hostile work environment claim have been met, and Defendant’s motion for summary judgment shall be denied with respect to that claim," the court said.

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania