A Rapid City man has filed a federal lawsuit against the Hardee’s restaurant chain, alleging he was pressured into a sexual relationship with his female supervisor, who then fired him when he ended it.
Gerald Anderson of Rapid City filed the lawsuit against the Northland Restaurant Group, operating as Hardee's, claiming that the business violated anti-discrimination laws.
Anderson said he unfairly lost his job at the restaurant in October 2012, according to a complaint filed Feb. 5.
In the lawsuit, which presents only one side of a dispute, Anderson claims he was hired at Hardee's in August 2012 by restaurant manager Danielle Dahlenburg. Anderson claims Dahlenburg subjected him to "unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and sexual touching" during his employment, according to court documents.
The suit does not say which of the two Rapid City Hardee's locations the incidents took place, or if Dahlenburg is still employed by the chain.
Anderson, who first took his claims to state and federal fair employment agencies, says the unwelcome sexual overtures were an expressed or implied condition of his employment, and as such he submitted to her requests, the suit alleges.
"When she hired him, Dahlenburg told plaintiff that if he 'applied' himself and worked with her 'on and off the clock' he could advance to a management position," the suit alleges. "Dahlenburg led plaintiff to believe that his submission to her sexual advances was a condition of his employment and that he would be fired, or otherwise retaliated against, if he did not acquiesce."
Anderson's suit claims that when he ended the relationship in October 2012, he was terminated about one week later. His attorney claims the manager's behavior was illegal under federal and state employment law.
“The primary allegation that we have here is that his employment was conditioned upon his participation in a sexual relationship with his supervisor and that constitutes unlawful employment discrimination,” said Sarah Baron Houy, Anderson's attorney.
Hardee's has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, Houy said.
Messages left with Northland Restaurant Group seeking comment were not returned. Dahlenburg is not named as a defendant in the suit. She could not be reached for comment and an online phone listing for her was no longer in service.
In April 2013, Anderson filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the South Dakota Division of Human Rights. In July 2013, the SDDHR issued a determination of probable cause. That finding was backed by the EEOC in November 2013 and he was sent a Notice of Right to Sue.
Anderson is seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for lost wages, benefits, attorney fees and other costs due to "humiliation and embarrassment," according to the suit.