In a pair of unrelated but strikingly similar lawsuits filed this week, two Portland women accuse their employers of firing them after they endured and reported egregious campaigns of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The defendants in these two cases are Servpro, a Portland-area water-damage cleanup company, and a McDonald's franchise along Southeast Powell Boulevard.
WW is not naming the women because they are allegedly victims of sexual violence.
The woman suing Servpro alleges in her complaint that co-worker Joshua Laulile began sexually harassing her in August 2017. It allegedly started with sexual comments and jokes, and quickly escalated to physical harassment—she alleges she was groped by Laulile on numerous occasions.
The complaint goes on to describe a workplace where the harassment was allegedly conducted in the open. She alleges managers were not only aware of the harassment, but that it was witnessed by co-workers on several occasions.
The lawsuit alleges the sexual harassment continued to escalate after the woman rebuffed Laulile's advances. She claims in the complaint that Laulile became increasingly violent, physically restraining her, grabbing and moving her, wrapping his hands around her neck and choking her. She alleges when she asked him to stop, his only response was "I know you like it, shut the fuck up."
She alleges she missed work trying to avoid the harassment. She claims she was then disciplined by Servpro, and by Laulile, who allegedly continued to behave violently toward her.
She claims Servpro conducted an internal investigation of her complaints, which concluded on Jan. 3, 2018. The findings were inconclusive, according to the lawsuit, and Laulile wasn't disciplined. She says she was told she would need to continue working with Laulile. When she refused, she says, she was fired on the spot.
She's suing for damages in the amount of $996,792. A representative for Servpro Northwest Portland says the allegations are false.
"The allegations are inaccurate and the Company fully intends to vigorously defend itself," the representative said.
A similar, but unrelated, lawsuit filed this week details allegations against a local McDonald's franchise located on Southeast Powell Boulevard. The plaintiff alleges she endured a workplace rife with sexual harassment and mismanagement.
The complaint alleges Russell Felmey, regional supervisor for the Southeast Powell McDonald's location, and other franchises owned by Ocean Restaurant Corporation, began to harass her by complimenting her appearance, flirting in the workplace, and behaving in a way the lawsuit characterizes as overly familiar.
"Defendant Felmey spent a disproportionate amount of time at Plaintiff's restaurant and engaged Plaintiff in various uncomfortable discussions, including his displeasure with his relationship, his affinity for firearms, and his romantic interest in Plaintiff," the complaint reads.
Over time the behavior escalated considerably, the lawsuit alleges, from compliments and lewd comments to unwanted physical touching and groping, including while she tried to clean the children's playland.
The complaint says Felmey routinely attempted to tickle her while in the workplace. When he was allegedly asked to stop, Felmey reportedly persisted, replying that he would "find the tickles."
On one occasion, Felmey allegedly asked her to close her eyes and hold out her hand, when she did, the complaint alleges Felmey placed a handgun in her hand. She says she was shaken and terrified by the experience.
According to the complaint, this was just one of many occasions which caused the woman to report Felmey's behavior to the owner and operator of Ocean Restaurant Corporation, James Dotson. Dotson reportedly disregarded her claims, stating Felmey was a "Christian" and "wouldn't do that," the complaint alleges.
Neither Dotson nor Felmey immediately responded to multiple requests for comment.
The suit says the woman felt helpless to fight back against the abuse or against Dotson's inaction, because she had no family support system in the U.S. and relied solely upon her long-term employment with McDonald's for any form of financial security.
She also says she reported financial irregularities, including the McDonalds allegedly hiring undocumented workers and paying them less than the legal minimum wage.
She was fired in March, after a brief hospital stay for emotional distress.
She seeks damages in the amount of $610,000 for unlawful employment practices, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.