Suffolk coffee company sued

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Suffolk-based coffee company is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a woman who said she was subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.

The lawsuit against Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA Inc., filed Monday, claims the woman, LaToya Young, was fired for speaking out against the harassment.

Brian Kubicki of Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA Inc. stated in an email Tuesday that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

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The lawsuit alleges that a male co-worker made repeated comments and gestures of a sexual nature toward Young. He allegedly told her he imagined the two having sex and would lick his lips and blow kisses while looking at Young, among other comments and gestures.

Young began her employment at the Suffolk roasting facility on Progress Road about Jan. 21, 2015, according to the suit. About Feb. 1 of that year, she was assigned to work monitoring four roasters. The harassment allegedly started the same day and lasted until Young complained to her immediate supervisor on Feb. 10.

The alleged harassment stopped for a few days but resumed on Feb. 13. That day, Young complained again to her supervisor, according to the lawsuit. She told her supervisor that she intended to report the harassment to the Human Resources department, the lawsuit states.

“In response, the supervisor told Young that doing so would jeopardize her employment,” the lawsuit states. “Young did not therefore report the harassment to Human Resources.”

The co-worker allegedly continued to make sexual comments and gestures to Young after the Feb. 13 complaint. Around March 4, Young made her final complaint about the harassment to her supervisor, yet it allegedly continued.

About March 24, Massimo Zanetti “engaged in an unlawful employment practice … when it discharged Young because of her complaints of sexual harassment,” the lawsuit states.

The company, at different times, said Young was fired for allegedly causing four batches of coffee not to meet specifications or for not telling her supervisor that the four batches were out of specifications.

However, Young had previously been told by her supervisor that she did not have to report to her supervisor when up to four batches of coffee were out of specifications. She had done so anyway, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to the short period of time between her last complaint and her discharge, “the threat to Young’s job made by her supervisor and directly related to her complaints … the shifting reasons provided for Young’s termination, and other factors indicated that Young was fired in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment,” the lawsuit states.

The EEOC has demanded a jury trial on the case.