Yankee Candle Worker Called ‘Unstuffed Turkey’ Has Bias Claims

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By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

Yankee Candle Co. must defend at trial disability harassment claims brought by a worker who alleged she was subjected to sexually offensive language regarding her hysterectomy, a federal court in Massachusetts held ( Zemrock v. Yankee Candle Co. , 2017 BL 37213, D. Mass., No. 14-30107, 2/7/17 ).

The case is the only Americans with Disabilities Act discrimination action that Yankee Candle has faced in the past five years, according to Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics. The ruling provides practitioners with an example of evidence showing severe or pervasive harassment that will allow an employee’s hostile work environment claims under the ADA and Massachusetts law to survive pretrial dismissal.

Brenda Zemrock claimed that, following her hysterectomy, a male co-worker repeatedly made offensive comments, such as telling her she “could accommodate the largest dildo” and that she “could shove” it “up there and it would get lost,” the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts said.

He also allegedly called her “an unstuffed turkey that every man wants to fuck because [she’s] a big open hole with an endless tunnel that every guy would love.” Zemrock’s supervisors purportedly laughed and joked along with the male co-worker instead of remedying the problem, despite Zemrock’s repeated complaints, the court said.

Additionally, the court allowed Zemrock’s ADA retaliation claim and state law sexual harassment claim to proceed to trial. But it dismissed other claims, such as one for constructive discharge because she chose to resign without first allowing Yankee Candle to correct the alleged harassment.

Attorneys representing Yankee Candle and Zemrock weren’t immediately available to respond to Bloomberg BNA’s Feb. 8 requests for comment. A Yankee Candle spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA that the company doesn’t comment on legal matters.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at jcasuga@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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