Posted On: December 29, 2008

Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago

A former Ambassador East Hotel worker Juana Sallis ("Sallis") filed a complaint against Defendant Portfolio Ambassador East, LLC, ("Portfolio"), owner of the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that she was subjected to a hostile work environment while employed at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago when she was sexually harassed by two supervisors in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1); and that Portfolio discharged her in violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3 because she complained about the sexual harassment.

According to her complaint Sallis was employed as a housekeeper at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, since May 3, 2000, and had satisfactorily performed the duties of her job. On November 23, 2005, Sallis was notified by a co-worker that another employee, Larry Cason, accused her of engaging in sexual acts with him. Sallis reported the incident to human resources director Elvia Munoz. Munoz and other members of the hotel management staff, including general manager Paul Lauritzen and executive housekeeper Bill Smith, "failed to take any action against Cason to have him cease and desist from engaging in his sexually offensive and derogatory behavior. Sallis alleges that as a result her work environment became hostile, egregious, outrageous, and offensive and severely affected her ability to perform the essential duties of her job.

On December 30, 2005, Sallis was discharged from her job as a housekeeper at the Ambassador East Hotel by Paul Lauritizen, Bill Smith, and Portfolio human resources director Linda Noriega. Sallis was told she was being discharged because she left work early on December 23, 2005. Plaintiff did not receive any documentation validating the reason for her discharge. On April 4, 2006, Sallis filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On March 1, 2007, the EEOC issued a "right to sue" letter authorizing Sallis to sue under Title VII within ninety days. Sallis filed her lawsuit against Portfolio on May 24, 2007 and it is still pending.

In a Hostile Work Environment claim under Title VII it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The United States Supreme Court held in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson that sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment constitutes discrimination based on sex that alters the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment in violation of Title VII. 477 U.S. 57, 66-67 (1986).

In order to establish a prima facie case of a hostile work environment, a Plaintiff must show that: (1) she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; (2) the harassment was based on sex; (3) the sexual harassment had the effect of unreasonably interfering with the plaintiff's work performance in creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment that affected seriously the psychological well-being of the plaintiff; and (4) there is a basis for employer liability. Parkins v. Civil Contractors of Illinois, Inc., 163 F.3d 1027, 1032 (7th Cir. 1998).