CHARLESTON - Four former employees are suing Rio Grande Inc. after they claim they were sexually harassed by a convicted sex offender who was employed in its Charleston restaurant.
Jennifer Blevins, Tiffany Freeman, Amy Abshire and Brittany Light were employed by Rio as waitresses and consistently performed their duties in a satisfactory manner and met the defendant's reasonable expectations, according to four complaints filed April 18 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
The plaintiffs claim during their employment, they were subjected to sexual harassment by a management employee named Jorge Lugo, who was a convicted sex offender and is also the nephew of Rio's owner, Miguel Aguirre.
Lugo constantly made unwanted sexual advances toward the plaintiffs and asked for sexual favors, according to the suits.
The plaintiffs claim Lugo made sexual comments and innuendo directed toward white, female employees who were born in the United States, but did not sexually harass employees of any other race, color or national origin.
When the plaintiffs notified Rio of the sexual harassment and hostile work environment, nothing was done to address the situation and the defendant completely failed to investigate and correct the problems, according to the suits.
The plaintiffs claim the working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person would be compelled to quit and, due to such working conditions, they resigned from their employment.
After resigning from employment, Blevins and Abshire returned after Lugo was transferred to another location, according to the suits, but were still subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment and were compelled to quit again.
The plaintiffs claim Rio violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act and caused them indignity, embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance and inconvenience.
Rio's negligent actions were willful, wanton, malicious and/or undertaken with reckless disregard and/or reckless indifference to the rights of the plaintiffs, according to the suits.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre-judgment interest. They are being represented by Mark A. Atkinson and Paul L. Frampton Jr. of Atkinson & Polak.
The cases have been assigned to Circuit Judges Jennifer Bailey, Charles E. King and James C. Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers: 13-C-749, 13-C-750, 13-C-751, 13-C-752