A sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Chico’s Pizza Parlor is heading to trial this summer.
A lawsuit against Chico’s Pizza Parlor in Moses Lake is heading to a jury trial later this year. The suit was filed by a former employee who “worked under the business’s owner, Mitch Zornes, for five years.” At the moment, the plaintiff is seeking damages over allegations of “a hostile work environment, retaliation, sexual discrimination and wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.” The damages, if awarded, would include compensation for front pay, back pay, pre-judgment, interest, adverse tax consequences, general damages, and reimbursement for attorneys fees and other court costs.
What happened, though? Well, according to the suit, Zornes made repeated and unwanted sexual advances during the plaintiff’s employment from 2016 to 2021. Additionally, the suit claims Zornes “made sexual comments to some female employees and was critical about how female employees looked.” In addition, the suit alleges he “opened a photo studio near Chico’s with the intent to develop a portfolio of ‘Boudoir photos;’ and, in furtherance of that plan asked several women to serve as models.”
The plaintiff also alleges that in 2018, when she mentioned she wasn’t making enough tips after a fire caused the temporary closure of the pizza parlor, “Zornes reportedly asked her to pose for a photoshoot.” While she agreed to that initial photoshoot, she allegedly never sat for another, despite Zornes’ continuously asking her. To make matters worse, the suit claims Zornes “admitted to having made porn in his photo studio at times and had a makeshift bed in front of a green screen as part of the photo studio.”
In 2020, the inappropriate behavior directed towards the plaintiff continued to increase. For example, in September 2020, Zornes “threatened to abandon the business if the plaintiff (and other female co-workers, his ‘three angels’) would not give him the special female attention he required from his managers.” The plaintiff also alleges that Zornes was “known for taking female employees to spend the night with him at a casino, and had invited the plaintiff to spend the night with him alone at the casino.” On a separate occasion, Zornes even allegedly inappropriately touched the plaintiff.
Eventually, the plaintiff resigned from her position, which only caused Zornes to allegedly retaliate against her. She and her boyfriend were renting a home they were leasing from Zornes, and when she resigned, Zornes tried to have her evicted.
In February 2021, the plaintiff filed a complaint with Moses Lake Police Department regarding the inappropriate touching incident and eviction issue and she ended up filing a lawsuit. At the moment, a jury trial is scheduled for August 8, 2022.
A jury trial on the cause is set for Aug. 8, 2022.