Following an eight-day trial, Washington County Judge Mary Hannon concluded on Tuesday that four former employees of Mississippi Dunes golf course in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, were the victims of battery, sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Minnesota law. The employees were represented by David Schlesinger and Lucas Kaster of Nichols Kaster.
The case stems from the spring and summer of 2014, when Mississippi Dunes's owner Dr. William Doebler subjected the plaintiffs to unwanted physical and verbal conduct of a sexual nature. When the plaintiffs objected to this mistreatment, Mississippi Dunes terminated them from their jobs.
As the Court observed, “The Court finds that [Mississippi Dunes’s] failure to respond in any way to allegations of sex discrimination in the workplace at the Dunes, perpetuated by the owner of the business, to be alarming. The Court finds that [Dunes’s] failure to take any remedial action concerning the numerous allegations against Doebler likely created an environment where sex discrimination was and possibly still is tolerated. This atmosphere, in which the business owner’s actions go unchecked despite (and likely because of) his position of power over the employees at the Dunes likely contributed to hostile work environment by creating a culture where sexual harassment is tolerated by management and employees believe there is no recourse available to them.”
Following the trial, the Court concluded that Dr. Doebler subjected Plaintiff Michelle Johnson to sexual harassment and battered both her and Plaintiff Charlotte Johnson. The Court also concluded that Traci Johnson and Wade Strom were subjected to retaliation. The Court awarded each of the plaintiffs damages ranging from $15,000 to $55,000, including awards of treble damages under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The Court also ordered the Defendants to pay a civil penalty of $20,000 to the state. Punitive damages are yet to be tried, and the amount of attorney's fees to be awarded to Plaintiffs' counsel has yet to be determined.
Plaintiffs’ counsel David Schlesinger stated, "No business in this state is above the law. Today, the Court has reaffirmed that every employee in Minnesota - whether they work fulltime in an office, or part-time serving drinks at a golf course - has the right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation."
The case is titled, Johnson et al. vs. Links on the Mississippi, Inc. and William C. Doebler, 82-cv-15-4079 (Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District.).