On January 6, 2016, Riggan Law Firm, LLC, a St. Louis employment law firm, obtained a victory for its client in a case involving claims of sexual harassment and retaliation, among others. In the case of Andrea Zeman v. RNA Worldwide, LLC, et al., Riggan Law Firm, LLC obtained a judgment for its client in the total amount of $129,983.50, consisting of $23,500 in lost wages, $70,500 in punitive damages, and $35,983.50 in attorneys’ fees and costs. Also named as defendants in the lawsuit were Laura Bezona and Rick Nelson, the husband-wife team that owns RNA.
The Plaintiff, Andrea Zeman, worked for Defendant RNA Worldwide, LLC from August 2012 through November 14, 2013, first as an administrative assistant, and later as an office manager. RNA is in the business of recycling computers and electronics.
The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Missouri, contained the following factual allegations, all of which were found to be true by the Court:
- Without Plaintiff’s consent or authorization, one or more employees of RNA accessed/searched Plaintiff’s personal computer, and accessed private photographs of Plaintiff in which Plaintiff was depicted nude and/or in a state of partial undress;
- Thereafter, the photographs of Plaintiff were shown to and/or disseminated to a number of Plaintiff’s co-workers at RNA’s workplace, without Plaintiff’s consent or authorization;
- Upon learning that her private photographs had been viewed by and/or disseminated to her co-workers without her consent, Plaintiff complained to Defendant Bezona and RNA manager Scottie Farrow on or about November 7, 2013 about being subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the workplace. Specifically, Plaintiff complained that the actions of RNA employees in accessing, disseminating, and/or viewing Plaintiff’s private photographs amounted to unlawful sexual harassment and violated RNA’s sexual harassment and anti-bullying policies. Plaintiff also requested that RNA return her personal computer to her;
- Despite the aforementioned complaints by Plaintiff, RNA took no action to correct the sexual harassment that was taking place in the workplace;
- On November 9, 2013, Plaintiff again complained to Mr. Farrow about how she felt that RNA was not dealing with the situation properly. Plaintiff reported to Mr. Farrow that she felt embarrassed and insecure;
- On November 13, 2013, Plaintiff sent an e-mail to Defendant Bezona and Mr. Farrow reiterating her complaint that employees were showing the photos behind her back, without her knowledge/permission. Plaintiff’s e-mail stated that she was concerned that RNA had taken no action in a situation where she believed the conduct of RNA employees violated RNA’s sexual harassment policy and anti-bullying policy. In the e-mail, Plaintiff stated that she felt extremely exposed, violated, and embarrassed. She also reiterated her request for RNA to return her personal computer to her;
- Despite Plaintiff’s multiple complaints about sexual harassment, RNA took no action to address Plaintiff’s complaints or to remedy the sexual harassment that had already occurred. Further, upon information and belief, RNA took no disciplinary action against any employee for gaining unauthorized access to Plaintiff’s personal computer, for gaining unauthorized access to Plaintiff’s private photographs, for disseminating or showing said photographs to other employees, or for viewing said photographs;
- Prior to Plaintiff learning of the presence of her private photographs in RNA’s workplace, Defendant Nelson became aware that an employee of RNA had located and viewed the private photographs on Plaintiff’s personal laptop. However, despite possessing that information, neither Defendant Nelson nor RNA took appropriate action to prevent the further dissemination/viewing of Plaintiff’s private photographs by RNA employees;
- The sexual harassment of Plaintiff culminated in a tangible employment action, in that Plaintiff was terminated on November 14, 2013, merely one day after her e-mail to Defendant Bezona and Mr. Farrow complaining about the sexual harassment.
Plaintiff’s lawsuit contained claims for sexual harassment and retaliation under the Missouri Human Rights Act. In addition, Plaintiff asserted a claim under the Missouri Service Letter Statute for RNA’s failure to provide her with a service letter in response to her written request, and a conversion claim for RNA’s failure to return her personal computer.
The Judgment was entered on January 6, 2016 by the Honorable Judge Darrell Eric Missey in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Missouri.