Christian V. McOmber, Peter D. Valenzano, and Tiffany M. Yacullo represent Alyssa Sanchez in a sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation lawsuit against licensed cannabis operator Verano NJ LLC, located in Somerville, New Jersey. Named defendants in the lawsuit also include Larry Wharton, Ken Merced, Latoya Bynum, Kim Torres, and VZL Staffing Services LLC.
The Complaint alleges Ms. Sanchez was subjected to countless harassing, misogynistic, and lewd comments from her direct supervisor, Mr. Wharton. Specifically, Wharton would often ask about intimate details of Sanchez’s sex life and marriage, compared Sanchez to his own wife, and commented on more than one occasion that he “thought about you [Sanchez] last night.” Each time, Sanchez would make clear to Wharton she wished to keep their relationship strictly professional. Despite this denial, Wharton would further search for Sanchez throughout the workday in Verano to engage in conversation with her and would frequently watch her whereabouts on the security cameras. When Sanchez engaged in conversations with co-workers, Mr. Wharton would be nearby, intensely staring at her.
Eventually, in Complaint paragraph 43, Ms. Sanchez alleges she brought her concerns about Wharton’s behavior to the Production Manager, Ken Merced, around July 6, 2022. Although Mr. Merced admitted he received several complaints about Wharton’s conduct from other employees, he ultimately failed to address the situation with the parties and instead promoted Sanchez in efforts to quiet her protest.
The Complaint continues in paragraphs 53 to 59 that despite Sanchez’s complaints to both Mr. Merced and Human Resources in which they promised follow-up meetings, no meeting was scheduled. When Sanchez finally informed her union, a meeting was commenced on July 14, 2022 with Ms. Bynum, Ms. Torres, Mr. Merced, Mr. Wharton, and a Union Representative. In this meeting, the named defendants appeared hostile towards Sanchez, commented inappropriately on her claims, and insisted the meeting “hurry up.” In fact, her complaints were essentially brushed aside, and the meeting culminated in Sanchez’s escort out of the building by a male security guard. The next day, Sanchez’s Union Representative informed her that the named defendants claimed she resigned from Verano, despite Sanchez never indicating such an intention.
This lawsuit, which is filed in Somerset County Superior Court, alleges violations of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Ms. Sanchez seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
“The allegations in the Complaint have no place in a civilized society and must be condemned. Verano’s actions of maintaining employment of an alleged sexual harasser and willfully minimizing serious complaints from our client needs to and will be exposed. We are proud of Ms. Sanchez for her courage in speaking out and standing firm that no woman should endure this kind of behavior in the workplace.” Tiffany M. Yacullo, Esq., McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C.