Woman says hotel brass harassed, defrauded her

By Chris Dickerson | Feb 15, 2006

WINFIELD – A Kanawha County woman accuses the owner and manager of a Hurricane hotel sexually harassing her and causing her to miss out on more than $100,000 in commissions.

Shannon K. Warner filed the lawsuit Jan. 27 in Putnam Circuit Court.

In the suit, Warner says started her job as an assistant manager at the Super 8 motel, located at 419 Hurricane Creek Road just off Interstate 64, in January 2005. She lists Super 8 Motels Inc., Navnit Sangani and Roy Simmons as defendants. Sangani is the owner/operator/manager of the Hurricane motel, and Simmons is a supervisor there.

One of Warner's duties as assistant manager was "marketing the services of the motel," according to the suit.

Warner, who is represented by attorney Richard E. Holtzapfel, claims Sangani told her that she would receive 5 percent commission on all motel sales that exceed the previous year's sales.

Within weeks, Warner says Sangani changed that commission to 10 percent.

Soon, through what Warner calls active marketing, she secured a contract with the U.S. Army National Guard to fill all 140 rooms for about six months at a rate of $44.95 per night.

Before that deal, Warner claims the motel averaged only about 20 occupied rooms per night.

Then, on June 30, Warner says Simmons made sexually suggestive comments and advances and "invited her to go to Atlantic City with him," according to the suit. Warner says she rejected his advances and told Sangani of the incident.

In the suit, Warner says Simmons admitted to make the comments during a meeting. But she says no action was taken.

Soon, Warner says she was demoted to desk clerk at a pay rate of $6 per hour.

Also, Warner claims Sangani said he was revoking and changing the terms of the commission she had earned, which totaled about $100,000.

The changes, the suit claims, would significantly reduce and practically nullify her entire commission.

Her last day of employment at the motel was July 28, 2005.

Warner sues on eight counts, including sexual harassment for the incident with Simmons.

"Defendant's unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature had the cumulative effect of unreasonably interfering with plaintiff's work performance and created an intimidating, hostile, abusive, retaliatory and offensive working environment which effectively forced her to resign her position," the suit alleges.

Warner also sues over the hostile working environment created by the sexual comments, her demotion, pay decrease and retraction of earned commission.

She also says her job ended as a retaliatory/constructive discharge.

"Plaintiff's employment ended as a direct and proximate result of her 'whistle-blowing' about the sexual harassment to which she was objected," the suit alleges.

Warner also says she is entitled to back pay, front pay and general compensation as well as punitive damages to be determined at trial. She also says the defendants' breach of contract and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealings because of the retraction of her earned commission constitute fraud.

"Plaintiff was the victim of an intentional and elaborate scheme orchestrated and perpetuated by the defendants which consisted of intentionally making false promises to her that if she would increase the defendants' business revenues she would receive attendant commissions," she says in the suit. "After increasing the defendants' business revenues, defendants intentionally changed the parameters in order to defraud plaintiff out of her earned commission."

She also sues for negligence and intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress, claiming the actions of the defendants were outrageous, intentional, malicious and done with intent to cause and/or in reckless disregard.

Warner seeks compensatory, general, special and punitive damages as well as attorney fees and other damages.

She requests a jury trial.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding.

Case number: 06-C-27

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