United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
RUTH C. CHAREST and JENNIFER N. KUFRIN, Plaintiffs,
SUNNY-AAKASH, LLC, agent of Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Spring Hill, and JAYPRAKASH PANJABI, individually, also know as Jay Panjabi, Defendants.
S. MOODY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant Sunny-Aakash,
LLC's Dispositive Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 37)
and Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition (Dkt. 44). The
Court, having reviewed the motion, response, record evidence,
and being otherwise advised in the premises, concludes that
the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.
Specifically, Defendant's motion is granted to the extent
that it is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs'
race and national origin claims. Defendant's motion is
denied with respect to Plaintiffs' sexual harassment and
retaliation claims-these claims will be resolved by the trier
an action brought by Plaintiffs Ruth Charest and Jennifer
Kufrin against their former employer, Sunny-Aakash, LLC, that
owns and operates a Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Spring Hill,
Florida (hereafter referred to as “Sunny-Aakash”
or “Defendant”), and against Jayprakash Panjabi,
Holiday Inn's general manager during the relevant
time. Panjabi is also an owner of Sunny-Aakash.
Charest and Kufrin allege the following claims against
Sunny-Aakash based on Panjabi's treatment of them during
their employment: claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 for
discrimination and harassment because of race and national
origin (Count I of the Second Amended Complaint); claims of
sexual harassment under the Florida Civil Rights Act
(“FCRA”) (Count II of the Second Amended
Complaint); and claims of retaliation under the FCRA (Count
III of the Second Amended Complaint).
moves for summary judgment on the entirety of Plaintiffs'
claims. The facts, accepted in a light most favorable to
Plaintiffs, the non-movants, now follow with respect to each
April of 2013, Panjabi, an Indian male, hired Charest, a
Filipino female, to work in Sunny-Aakash's housekeeping
department. Charest worked for Sunny-Aakash from April 2013,
until late May 2016. Charest was subjected to the
supervision, authority, and control of Panjabi during her
employment. Panjabi determined Charest's rate of pay, the
number of hours she worked, and her job assignments. He had
complete firing authority. When Panjabi trained Charest on
the hotel's policies, including policies on sexual
harassment, he told her to contact him directly to report any
issues. Panjabi frequently told Charest that he was her boss
and that he owned the hotel.
record reflects that throughout her three years of employment
at Sunny-Aakash, Panjabi threatened Charest that if she did
not give him oral sex and have sexual intercourse with him,
she would lose everything-her job, her family, her
husband-and she would be sent back to the Philippines.
Panjabi frequently told Charest that she should be willing to
have sex with him because she was Filipino. Charest was
afraid of Panjabi, who is a very strong and intimidating man.
Charest is a small woman, less than five feet tall.
to Charest, Panjabi forced Charest to give him oral sex
throughout her employment. She testified that he would
frequently call her into a vacant hotel room, under the guise
of requesting that she clean the room, and then he would pull
down his pants, take out his penis, and tell her to give him
oral sex. He would grab her by the head and push it down on
his penis. Although Charest told Panjabi no and tried to
reject him, she gave into his demands because she was scared
of Panjabi and could not risk losing her job.
would also corner Charest in the hotel's laundry room and
force her to give him oral sex. Charest testified that she
constantly told Panjabi that she did not want to give him
oral sex but he would threaten to fire her if she did not
give in to his sexual demands. Panjabi also demanded that
Charest have sexual intercourse with him. According to
Charest, he would wait until they were alone in a hotel room,
grab Charest's breasts, remove her clothes, and then
force himself on her.
record reflects that Charest had frequent coerced oral sex
and sexual intercourse with Panjabi throughout her
employment. After the sexual incidents, Panjabi would
threaten Charest that if she reported his behavior she would
be in “big trouble.” Panjabi told Charest that he
was powerful and could do anything he wanted, including
terminating her and preventing her from finding another job.
Panjabi also said that there was no one at the hotel who was
above him; he was the “big boss.”
testified that on one occasion Panjabi forced her to have
sexual intercourse with Panjabi and his friend
“Kevin.” The men forced Charest to give them oral
sex and then took turns having sexual intercourse with her.
also forced Charest and Plaintiff Jennifer Kufrin to kiss
each other and then engage in group sex with him. Panjabi
took turns having sex with the women.
record reflects that Panjabi told Charest that because she
was Filipino she should be willing to provide sex to Indian
men who he said were superior.
early May of 2016, Charest decided that she was finished
giving into Panjabi's sexual demands. Charest testified
that she felt more powerful knowing that Kufrin, who Panjabi
was also sexually abusing, was a witness. Before that, she
felt like she would not be believed because she was in
housekeeping and Panjabi was powerful.
May of 2016, Panjabi demanded that Charest give him oral sex.
Charest refused. Panjabi started yelling at her and Charest
slapped him on his face. Panjabi then terminated her.
According to Charest, Panjabi terminated her because she
refused to give him oral sex.