On September 20, 2017, Juanita Lopez began working as a cashier at Mama’s Fried Chicken Inc. in Harlem. Ms. Lopez quit her job on March 8, 2018 claiming she could no longer endure daily workplace sexual harassment from her manager.
Ms. Lopez sued both her manager and her employer. They did not answer the complaint and a default judgment was entered against them. At the conclusion of the inquest hearing, plaintiff was awarded (a) damages for her emotional distress in the sum of $300,000 and (b) punitive damages in the sum of $200,000.
In Lopez v. Mama’s Fried Chicken Inc. (1st Dept. 2022), the judgment in plaintiff’s favor was affirmed.
Here are some of the incidents and allegations regarding the manager that plaintiff testified about to support her damages claims:
- touching of her breasts and buttocks
- telling her she should have sex with him instead of her fiancé (a woman) in part because he was a man and could satisfy her whereas her fiancé could not
- bursting into the employee bathroom on at least three occasions when she was using the facilities
- asking about her sex life with her fiancé
As a result, Ms. Lopez claimed she suffered severe emotional distress and depression for which she underwent two months of treatment with a mental health professional whose records were admitted in evidence.
Ms. Lopez was also awarded $40,760.72 damages mainly for unpaid and lost wages and attorney fees. Her total award was for $540,760.72.
- After she left defendants’ employ, Ms. Lopez got a full time job at a construction company paying her more.
- In unsuccessfully seeking to vacate his default, the manager claimed that plaintiff’s lawsuit was brought to retaliate against him for firing her for stealing money and inappropriately giving away free food (allegations plaintiff denied).