No Such Thing as a Free Floral Bouquet – Violating Store Policies Has Consequences; Grocery Store Chain Rings Up a Complete Defense Verdict

Our client, a nationwide grocery store chain, faced a lawsuit from a disgruntled former store management employee who was re-assigned after store surveillance footage caught her giving away bunches of fresh roses to store customers for free at the end of the day – a direct violation of the store’s policies. Following an investigation that determined the employee’s bouquet bonanza violated store policy, the store offered her a demotion. Rather than accept this offer, she resigned, all the while claiming that she was authorized and entitled to give away store produce and products without consequences. Within days of her resignation, she sued for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, defamation and wrongful termination. 

We successfully moved the lawsuit to arbitration based on the mandatory arbitration agreement signed by all employees.  Discovery lasted for the better part of a year, and was focused on alleged harassment claims reported by other employees (as Claimant readily admitted at her deposition that she never personally experienced any sexual harassment) for conduct that the employee neither witnessed nor reported to the store.  Following a three-day arbitration, Todd Wulffson, Lindsay Ayers, Nicole Legrottaglie Wohl and Alessandra Whipple obtained a complete defense verdict (with an award of costs) on seven separate claims for sexual harassment (hostile work environment) in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”),  sex discrimination in violation of FEHA, retaliation in violation of FEHA, failure to take all steps to prevent harassment, defamation, negligent hiring, retention and supervision, and finally, constructive termination in violation of public policy.

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