Nestle Waters, a division of the Nestle Global Corporation is the latest employer to face a sexual harassment lawsuit in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to a complaint filed in the matter of Mateo v. Nestle Waters North America, Inc., a gay employee of the bottled water company alleges he was the victim of a hostile work environment, discrimination, retaliation, and the threat of physical harm at a Nestle Waters distribution facility.
The employee, states that shortly after beginning work at the distribution facility, a supervisor and co-workers engaged in harassing behavior that included making anti-gay comments in his presence, touching his nipples, threatening physical violence with a knife, inviting the employee to engage in sexual relations, and calling him offensive names in the presence of a least one supervisor. The employee reported the alleged harassment to Nestle Human Resources in the summer of 2012 but no investigation took place.
claimed that the physical altercations was instigated by the plaintiff (although it was documented that the co-worker used anti-gay language), Nestle terminated the gay employee while his co-worker retained his position. Nestle alleges that following the termination, they discovered that the employee had omitted or misrepresented pertinent information on his employment application, including that he was let go by previous employers on the basis of poor performance or conduct. The employee subsequently filed a federal lawsuit claiming violations of Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, based on sexual orientation discrimination, sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, and retaliation.
he New Jersey federal district court recently denied Nestle’s motion for summary judgment on the hostile work environment, sex discrimination, and retaliation counts, allowing the employee to go forward with these claims. With respect to the hostile work environment claims, the court held that a reasonable jury could conclude the employee suffered “severe and pervasive” harassment.
Nestle’s argues that the employee was unable to demonstrate discrimination and that his termination resulted from his physical altercation with his co-workers was also rejected by the court. The court suggested Nestle’s stated reason for firing the employee could be a pretext as other non-gay employees were not fired for similar behavior.
The lawsiut will move forward and be heard possibly later this year.
To read the opinion in Mateo v. Nestle Waters North America, Inc., click here.