Former employees of Hudson, Chagrin Falls stores file sexual harassment complaint
Ex-workers claim they were harassed by co-owner; some allege company retaliated after they complained to human resources
An owner of clothing stores in Hudson and Chagrin Falls allegedly made unwanted sexual advances to six young women who worked for him, including sexual comments, unwanted touching and pressuring them to drink alcohol, according to a recent complaint filed by three former employees.
When the father of an underage employee at the Hudson store complained to the firm's human resources manager earlier this year, the employee was told the company would no longer employ minors and she was not allowed to return to work, the complaint states. Other employees who reported the harassment were allegedly ignored, threatened or retaliated against.
David J. Walker, co-owner of Winds of Change clothing stores in Hudson and Chagrin Falls and the Gypsy Sole store in Chagrin Falls, is facing the allegations of sexual harassment in a case filed by three former employees in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Aug. 19. Allegations about Walker's conduct date from 2018 through this year.
Walker registered Winds of Change Boutique LLC with the state as a for-profit business in 2010. The Winds of Change store in Hudson opened at 190 N. Main St. in 2014. Walker registered the Gypsy Sole store with the state in 2014 and the store opened in Chagrin Falls the same year.
The complaint alleges Walker has "repeatedly sexually harassed several of his female employees not only through unwanted sexual comments, but also through inappropriate sexual touching. He has repeatedly provided them alcohol and pressured them to become intoxicated, and then engaged in sexual touching with them when he knew they were unable to consent."
The complaint also claims that Angela Huang, who co-owns the three stores with Walker, was "aware" of the accusations against Walker because she was either told about them or witnessed them, but "took no effective action to stop it."
Walker, Huang, along with Gypsy Sole LLC and Winds of Change Boutique LLC, are named as defendants in the civil suit that was filed by three former employees. The newspaper is not naming the plaintiffs because they are alleging they are victims of sexual harassment.
Walker and Huang did not reply to phone messages left Tuesday at the store in Hudson and the two sites in Chagrin Falls. There are no attorneys listed for the defendants in the online court docket.
"The complaint speaks for itself," said Matthew Besser, the attorney for the plaintiffs. "We plan on proving everything in there is true."
The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial.
According to the complaint, the father of an underage female employee who worked in the Winds of Change store in Hudson contacted the company's human resources manager in February and claimed that Walker had "sexually harassed" his daughter.
The complaint states that the defendants "retaliated against the employee by permanently removing her from the work schedule."
The complaint says that after the father complained, other employees, including the plaintiffs, reported that Walker had "sexually harassed them and others," with the three plaintiffs alleging they had been harassed at the Chagrin Falls stores.
The HR manager "feigned surprise" at these subsequent complaints and denied that anyone had previously complained about Walker's conduct, the complaint said.
The court filing alleges the defendants "retaliated against several of these employees by changing their hours or assigning them new and difficult tasks."
All of the employees who made complaints to the HR manager resigned from their jobs because they "feared ongoing sexual harassment and had no reason to believe" that the companies and its owners would protect them from Walker, the complaint said.
The three plaintiffs all resigned from their jobs this past summer, the complaint states.
All three plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages from Winds of Change and Gypsy Sole on claims of sexual harassment, retaliation harassment, and negligent training and supervision, as well as punitive damages from Walker and Huang individually on a claim of aiding and abetting discrimination. Two of them are also seeking punitive damages from Walker on a claim of assault and battery.
The plaintiffs are seeking "in excess of $25,000" for back pay and front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney's fees, equitable relief, as well as cost of suit and pre- and post-judgment interest, the complaint states.
The case has been assigned to Judge William T. McGinty, but no court dates have been scheduled yet, according to the online docket.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.