Two men say the general manager of a Norcross Wendy's repeatedly groped them, asked for sex and exposed himself, and when they complained about the same-sex sexual harassment he threatened to have them deported.
Mario Martinez and Gabriel Salas filed federal lawsuits on Thursday against Hoover Foods, the Suwanee-based operator of the Wendy's on Spalding Drive in Norcross where the two former employees allege the harassment took place. The lawsuits say the alleged behavior from Jason Colon, the store's general manager, constituted discrimination based on sex and national origin and that retaliation against the men violated federal law.
The behavior, according to the lawsuit, caused "emotional and mental distress and hardship" to Martinez and Salas. The lawsuits seek lost wages, damages and attorney fees.
"Such hardship and distress includes, but is not limited to, clinically diagnosed depression and severe anxiety, loss of sleep, damaged interpersonal relationships, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish," according to the lawsuits.
Both men were cooks at the fast food location.
The lawsuits allege that Colon harassed the men beginning in 2008 for Martinez and Salas in 2011, and continued "on virtually a daily basis." It included crotch grabbing, attempted kissing and even an assault with a spatula.
Salas alleges in the lawsuit:
Mr. Colon sexually harassed and sexually assaulted Mr. Salas and other employees on virtually a daily basis for several years beginning in or about 2011, and beginning years earlier as to other employees. Such harassment included, but was not limited to, unwanted touching, grabbing, groping, ogling, and slapping of employees’ penises and buttocks. For example, Mr. Colon grabbed Mr. Salas’ crotch and poked a spatula into his clothed buttocks then continued to use the spatula to flip burgers. Mr. Colon additionally attempted to kiss employees. He also repeatedly made lewd comments to Mr. Salas, and repeatedly invited Mr. Salas to engage in sexual activity. Mr. Colon also exposed his nude body to Mr. Salas and other employees. These acts were witnessed by numerous employees.
The allegations of mistreatment lodged in Martinez's lawsuit are similar.
The lawsuits also allege that Colon bullied both men and joked about their Mexican heritage. When the men objected, Colon ignored their pleas and threatened the men with deportation, according to the lawsuits.
The lawsuits allege that Hoover Foods failed to put policies in place to address the complaints. When the men filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company "made inadequate attempts to investigate and rectify the situation."
"Prior to the EEOC complaint, there is no evidence that Defendant even addressed the situation with Mr. Colon except on one or two occasions when he threatened [Martinez and Salas] and other complainants with retaliatory termination, and bragged that no one is going to do anything about their complaints," according to the lawsuits.
Hoover Foods has 21 days to respond the lawsuit.