A former personal chef has filed a lawsuit against her employer hurling allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation as well as the failure to pay legal wages. Chef Cindy Rueda worked for Sean Combs, the world famous singer and music producer also known as “Diddy,” from January 2015 to May 2016 at his California Estate. In her complaint filed May 8, 2017, in Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, Rueda asks for unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, punitive damages, money for emotional distress, lost income, and injunctive relief.
Rueda claims that on more than one occasion she was asked to serve meals to Combs in his bedroom where he and/or guests were “engaged in or immediately following sexual activity.” She alleges that on at least one post-coital occasion, Combs was not wearing any clothes and asked her opinion about his body. At another time, a naked male houseguest, after engaging in sexual activity with another guest, allegedly appeared in the kitchen where she was working and asked her to look at his genitals. Rueda was allegedly so “mortified” that she complained to Stacy Friend, the woman in charge of the Combs Estate.
Rueda continued to complain about her unwanted exposure to sexual activity and conversations which, according to her complaint, resulted in her termination. In a strange twist, she claims that she was “framed” when the executive housekeeper offered Rueda a watch she allegedly found in the garbage. Shortly after, Rueda was accused of stealing the watch and presented with an opportunity to return the watch and sign a document waiving all future claims against Diddy as they related to her employment. Rueda returned the watch but did not sign the waiver. She was fired a few days later.
This particular case involves California Law but is illustrative of most sexual harassment cases and their issues whether they arise from violations of state or federal law. Rueda’s complaint contains allegations of both quid pro quo and hostile environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo occurs when terms and conditions of employment are directly related to sexual activity. For example, I will fire you if you don’t perform this sexual favor for me.
Rueda claims that the terms of her employment, particularly “favorable working conditions” were contingent on her acceptance of unwanted sexual advances and conduct by Diddy and/or houseguests under his supervision.
A hostile environment exists when unwanted sexual conduct and behavior is such that it would make a reasonable person feel uncomfortable or threatened. Here, Rueda alleges that the sexual conduct was severe and pervasive enough that she considered it to be abusive or hostile, as would any other reasonable person.
The lawsuit remains in its earliest stages. Rueda’s complaint asks the court for a jury trial, but sexual harassment cases often settle long before a trial becomes necessary. In addition to the harassment claims, however, Rueda also alleges that Combs misclassified her as an exempt employee and as such, must pay overtime and other wages she never received.
A representative for Combs told the New York Daily News that “This is a frivolous lawsuit by a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired for cause.” Whether the parties can reach an agreement and settle the case or the outcome gets decided by a jury remains to be seen.
If you are an employee who is being sexually harassed in New York City, Long Island or any of the surrounding counties, contact Leeds Brown Law, P.C. for a free case evaluation. Our employment discrimination attorneys have experience handling sexual harassment claims for employees of every gender, in every industry.
Have you had to endure unwanted sexual advances? Unwanted touching? Persistent lewd comments? Call Leeds Brown and find out how our sexual harassment lawyers can help. We are available 24/7 so don’t wait. 1-800-585-4658.