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Benitez v. Simmi Hospitality Management Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 10, 2017

CELIA BENITEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SIMMI HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT INC., ET AL., Defendants.

          Holman Schiavone, LLC Kirk D. Holman, KS Bar 19558 Ashley S. Grace, KS Bar 26888 4600 ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Celia Benitez brought this action alleging the following two claims against Defendants Simmi Hospitality Management Inc. and Payal Hotels, LLC (collectively “Defendants”)[1]: sexual harassment and discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. On June 1, 2017, the Clerk entered default against Defendants.[2] This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 23) and Motion for Attorney Fees (Doc. 29). The Court held a hearing on July 11, 2017, at which time it heard argument from Plaintiff on her motion and heard evidence regarding Plaintiff's request for damages. Defendants did not appear. Having considered Plaintiff's motion and her arguments and evidence presented at the July 11, 2017 hearing, the Court is prepared to rule. For the reasons stated in detail below, the Court grants Plaintiff's motions for default judgment and for attorney fees.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed her Complaint on September 9, 2016, against her former employers, Defendants Simmi Hospitality Management Inc. and Payal Hotels, LLC, and filed her First Amended Complaint on October 5, 2016. Plaintiff's Complaint and First Amended Complaint alleged two claims against Defendants, one for sexual harassment and discrimination in violation of of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and the second for retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants' general manager, D.C. Parad, subjected Plaintiff to a sexually hostile work environment by making comments of a sexual nature to her; by staring at Plaintiff inappropriately, and by touching Plaintiff inappropriately. Plaintiff alleged that she asked Mr. Parad to stop, but he would not. She further alleged that she reported Mr. Parad's behavior to Defendants' area manager, Eunice Ruiz. Plaintiff alleged that Ms. Ruiz's response was to assign Plaintiff to another hotel, but Plaintiff believed that to be unfair, as it was farther away from her home. Plaintiff also alleged that following her complaints of discrimination, her hours were reduced and that by mid-September 2015, she was no longer scheduled to work any hours. Plaintiff alleged that she continued to inquire as to why she was not being scheduled for any hours, but never received a response.

         II. Discussion

         Following entry of default, Rule 55(b)(2) allows the Court to enter default judgment. Once default is entered, the defendant is not entitled to defend itself on the merits.[3] But an entry of default only establishes liability; it does not establish the amount of damages.[4] The factual allegations in the Complaint are taken as true, except for those relating to the amount of damages.[5] “Damages may be awarded only if the record adequately reflects the basis for award via a hearing or a demonstration by detailed affidavits establishing the necessary facts.”[6] Default judgment may only be entered against defendants whom the Court determines are not minors or incompetent persons.[7] Defendants are not minors or incompetent persons (Defendant Simmi Hospitality is a corporation and Defendant Payal Hotels is a limited liability company). Additionally, Defendants have not responded to Plaintiff's motion for default judgment, and did not appear at the July 11, 2017 hearing on Plaintiff's motion, despite the Court having sent notice of the hearing to Defendants at their registered addresses.[8] Thus, the Court may enter default against Defendants.

         Having established Defendants' liability for each of Plaintiff's two claims, the Court now turns to the issue of damages and other relief. Plaintiff requests compensatory damages for lost wages and emotional distress, punitive damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs.[9]

         a. Sexual Harassment & Discrimination

         Plaintiff testified that Defendants' general manager, Mr. Parad, subjected Plaintiff to a sexually hostile work environment by making comments to Plaintiff about her breasts and her appearance and asking her to have sex with him; by staring at Plaintiff in a manner that made her feel uncomfortable, particularly because he would look her body up and down; and by pressing himself up against Plaintiff while she was at work, including one such occasion where he did so in the presence of customers. Plaintiff testified that Mr. Parad's behavior commenced on the same day on which he became Plaintiff's general manager and occurred on a daily basis thereafter. Plaintiff testified that she asked Mr. Parad to stop his behavior, but he did not.

         Plaintiff also testified that she informed the area manager, Ms. Ruiz, about Mr. Parad's behavior, but Ms. Ruiz's response was to suggest that Plaintiff could work at an empty hotel farther away from her home. Plaintiff testified that she did not believe this was an appropriate response to her request.

         b. Retaliation

         Plaintiff testified that following her complaints to the area manager Ms. Ruiz, she was instructed to go and watch a hotel for Defendants at a location farther from her home. Plaintiff testified that she did go to the hotel a few times, but it was empty, and was thereafter returned to the Defendants' hotel where she originally worked. Plaintiff testified that after she complained of the harassment, she began receiving fewer hours on the schedule, and was ultimately taken off the schedule. Plaintiff testified that she believed because she was no longer scheduled for any shifts despite her inquiries as to why, that she was effectively terminated from her employment.

         c. ...


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