Sandra Pezqueda, a Teukolsky Law client who was named one of The Silence Breakers, TIME Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year, has settled her sexual harassment lawsuit against Terranea Resort and the staffing agency that placed her there for $250,000.
Ms. Pezqueda, a former dishwasher at Terranea, filed suit against the luxury resort alleging she was fired after complaining to management about a supervisor who was sexually harassing her. According to the lawsuit, she was pursued by a male supervisor for months who changed her schedule and cut her hours after she rebuffed his advances. After coming forward and reporting the issue, Ms. Pezqueda alleged that the company targeted her and ultimately fired her.
Trial in Ms. Pezqueda’s case was set for June 2018. The parties engaged in months of hard-fought litigation before settling the case. Significantly, the settlement agreement does not contain a non-disclosure agreement that would limit Ms. Pezqueda’s ability to speak about her experiences at Terranea. This means that Ms. Pezqueda can continue to advocate for women’s rights in the workplace and share her story. “I know firsthand how hard it can be to speak out about sexual harassment. After I was fired, I felt depressed and angry. I don’t want other women to go through what I did,” says Ms. Pezqueda. She adds, “If I have helped even a single woman feel like she can come forward and speak, it was worth it.”
Lauren Teukolsky of Teukolsky Law represents Ms. Pezqueda. She says, “Representing Sandra has been a true privilege. She is a hero. After she got fired for complaining about sexual harassment, she could have just walked away. Instead, she stood up. She is part of the #metoo revolution and she inspires me every day to fight harder for women in the workplace.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, only the staffing agency, Excel, will pay money directly to Ms. Pezqueda. Terranea has seized on this language to suggest publicly that it has been “cleared” of wrongdoing. “While the settlement agreement is structured so that the settlement moneys are paid to Ms. Pezqueda directly by the staffing agency, one could wonder whether Terranea made a side deal to reimburse the staffing agency,” said Ms. Teukolsky. “$250,000 is a lot of money for a small staffing agency to pay. You can draw your own conclusions.”
While Ms. Pezqueda’s case is over, Teukolsky Law continues to fight for other Terranea workers who allege that the hotel mistreated them. In late October 2017, Terranea workers filed a wage-theft class action suit alleging that the hotel denies employees state-required meal and rest breaks, and does not compensate them for all hours worked. That litigation is ongoing.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.