Five women have filed a civil lawsuit accusing Maker’s Mark Distillery for being a sexually hostile workplace, discriminating against women, interfering with their rights under state and federal laws, and retaliating against them in violation of federal and state laws.
The complaint was filed April 6 in Louisville in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The plaintiffs in the case are Patti Berry, Christy L. Fogle, Bonnie Mills and Mary Thompson, all of Loretto, and Courtney Clark, New Haven. Maker’s Mark Distillery Inc. is named as the defendant.
The plaintiffs have accused Maker’s Mark of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The plaintiffs are seeking a “judgment against Maker’s Mark in an amount sufficient to fully compensate the plaintiffs for their respective damages.” They are also seeking punitive damages against the distillery, an award of “liquidated damages” for FMLA violations, and their costs and attorney fees.
The plaintiffs are seeking a trial by jury.
The complaint describes a series of accusations, primarily between August 2010 through March 2012.
According to the complaint, Maker’s Mark employees were given a survey in October 2010 asking whether they “had been subjected to or otherwise witnessed discrimination (including sexual harassment) in the workplace or had otherwise been subjected to discrimination.”
The five plaintiffs all reported incidents of sexual harassment, including unwelcome advances from co-workers, frequent and sometimes graphic discussions of sexual acts, an offensive birthday card being presented to one of the plaintiffs and a co-worker exposing her buttocks in the workplace.
The complaint also includes accusations of discrimination against females with regard to specific job duties – such as operating a forklift – and with regard to job promotions.
Each of the plaintiffs was interviewed in February or March of 2011 about incidents they reported in response to the survey, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs alleged retaliation by company officials for what they reported. Those retaliatory acts included accusations that Maker’s Mark officials passed them over for promotions and did not inform them when job openings were posted within the distillery.
One of the plaintiffs was terminated as a Maker’s Mark employee. Berry was hired at the distillery in 2002, but was fired in April 2011. The complaint notes that Berry was accused of exposing her breasts to and performing a “lap dance” for a co-worker. Berry had denied that this occurred and reported that witnesses who could support her version of events were not interviewed.
Clark has worked at Maker’s Mark since Nov. 20, 2010. Fogle has worked there since Sept. 6, 2002. Mills has worked at the distillery since January 1996, and Thompson has been a Maker’s Mark employee since Sept. 14, 1987.
Editor’s note: The complaint only gives the plaintiffs’ side of a case, and Maker’s Mark has not yet filed a response to this complaint. More information will be reported as it becomes available.