BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — A Harrison County Court set trial dates for the workplace sexual harassment lawsuits brought by several former female employees of a Bridgeport IHOP who claim the restaurant’s franchisees, Sharp Holding, Inc. and Country Roads 3059, and management team failed to provide a professional and safe work environment. Some of the women also allege they were retaliated against when they reported the inappropriate behavior.
The first trial will be held on Aug. 8, 2022, centering on Laura Lynch, who worked as a server and crew member at the IHOP. According to her suit, Lynch was subjected to numerous aggressive acts of sexual harassment and lewd conduct from three different assistant managers while she worked at the restaurant. The suit alleges that Sharp Holding and IHOP #3059 management failed to investigate the backgrounds of new hires. This led to the hiring of a convicted sex offender, but management did not acknowledge or act on complaints that the new employee sexually harassed others in the workplace.
The lawsuit also claims that one assistant manager repeatedly made lewd remarks and inappropriately touched Lynch. At one point, he even blocked a doorway to prevent her escape from his unwanted advances. The suit states that another employee loudly streamed porn videos while on the job and made inappropriate comments to Lynch. The suit states that he also made inappropriate and unwanted advances on multiple occasions, touching her thigh and groin area, while on the clock.
According to the lawsuit, Lynch submitted four written statements and made numerous verbal complaints regarding aggressive acts of sexual harassment and lewd conduct from the assistant managers. The suit claims that Sharp Holdings and IHOP #3059 management neither investigated nor took corrective action when they received any of the written statements nor did they listen to any of Lynch’s verbal complaints regarding the inappropriate behavior.
She is also suing for management’s retaliation and wrongful termination. The suit states that two days after Lynch submitted a written complaint, where she accused management of retaliating against her, District Manager Michael Garrido, a defendant named in the suit, finally met with her. The suit states that Garrido gave the plaintiff an ultimatum to solve the reported workplace issues: either transfer to an IHOP in another town or be terminated. Meanwhile, the employee accused of the inappropriate and unwanted advances and touching remained employed at the location.
Trials for five additional former IHOP employees with similar complaints as Lynch’s have been set for 2023. One of the cases will be arbitrated.
“The individual experiences of seven women indicate a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at the restaurant—these were not isolated incidents,” says Todd Bailess of Bailess Law Firm and lead attorney representing the seven former employees. “The lack of action from upper management essentially gave a green light to supervisors to act in an unprofessional manner and demean female employees.”
The seven cases are in Harrison County Court:
- Laura J. Lynch v. Sharp Holding, Inc., Country Road 3059, Inc., d/b/a IHOP Restaurant, Michael Garrido, Michael Mercadante, and Does 1-5, Case No. 20-C-88-1
- Cierra D. Smith v. Sharp Holding, Inc., Country Road 3059, Inc. d/b/a IHOP Restaurant, Robert Sharp, Timothy Tsitorusi, Michael Mercadante, Michael Garrido, Rodney Ahart, Randall White, and Arthur Glover, Case No. 21-C-40-2
- Katie B. Martin v. Sharp Holding, Inc., Country Road 3059, Inc., d/b/a IHOP Restaurant, Robert Sharp, Timothy Tsitorusi, Michael Garrido, Michael Mercadante, and Zachary Fowler, Case No. 21-C-42-1
- Pamela M. Hosey v. Sharp Holding, Inc., Country Road 3059, Inc. d/b/a IHOP Restaurant, Michael Mercadante, Tommy Tsitouris, Michael Garrido, and Randall White, Case No. 20-C-104-2
- Suzanna K. Howard v. Sharp Holding, Inc., Country Road 3059, Inc. d/b/a IHOP Restaurant, Robert Sharp, Timmy Tsitouris, Michael Mercadante, Michael Garrido, and Randall White, Case No. 21-C-15-2
- Taylor D. Jenkins v. Sharp Holding, Inc., Country Road 3059, Inc. d/b/a IHOP Restaurant, Robert Sharp, Timmy Tsitouris, Michael Mercadante, Michael Garrido, Rodney Ahart, and Randall White, Case No. 20-C-16-3
- Lauren A. Feierstadt v. Sharp Holding, Inc., Country Road 3059, Inc. d/b/a IHOP Restaurant, Robert Sharp, Timothy Tsitouris, Michael Garrido, Justin Beslanowitch, and Joseph Richison, Arbitration
About Bailess Law Firm
The attorneys at Bailess Law Firm handle high-profile cases and have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. The West Virginia-based law firm takes pride in helping restore dignity and bringing hope to workers who have been subjected to unlawful employment practices.