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Henkels & McCoy Ex-General Counsel to Get Sex Harassment Trial

Aug. 29, 2022, 7:16 PM

Henkels & McCoy Group Inc., two subsidiaries, and the company’s chairman and CEO must face trial on a former vice president and general counsel’s claims that she was harassed over her complaints about discrimination against her and other female employees, a Philadelphia federal judge ruled.

Caroline Henrich’s evidence would support a jury finding the alleged hostile work environment was severe or pervasive enough to violate federal and Pennsylvania law, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said. It includes a “girl power” comment by David Lamoreaux, the head of human resources, the court said.

The defendants didn’t dispute that Lamoreux made the remark, which “can hardly be characterized as a mere stray comment or off-color joke,” Judge Michael M. Baylson said.

A jury could see the remark as “demeaning in a very gender-specific way” and it was made in the context of discouraging Henrich from continuing to raise the issue of Natalie Moore, who was fired after complaining that she was bypassed for promotion because she is a woman, the judge said.

Other evidence shows that the “girl power” comment was followed by the suggestion that Henkels & McCoy would stop hiring women altogether if they continued to cause problems, the court said.

In addition, Roderick Henkels, the CEO, “demanded that Henrich sign a quasi-legal document stating that she was ‘done’ discussing” Moore, the court said.

According to Henrich, she would have been terminated if she hadn’t agreed to that “reset,” Baylson said. And Henrich was ultimately fired within 48 hours after filing another sex discrimination complaint.

Henkels says he fired Henrich because she “couldn’t see beyond the lens of discrimination,” and Lamoreaux testified that people don’t want to work with someone who always complains.

A trial could show that’s evidence Henrich was fired in response for her gender bias complaints, Baylson said.

Though the defendants didn’t seek summary judgment on Henrich’s retaliation claims, those allegations “cannot be separated so cleanly” from her hostile environment claims, the judge said.

There’s also deposition testimony that Henrich attended a meeting at which all of the men who were present were called on while none of the women were, was held to different standards than her male colleagues, and was removed as chair of a committee soon after complaining about gender bias, the court said.

Console Mattiacci Law LLC represents Henrich. Fox Rothschild LLP represents the defendants.

The case is Henrich v. Henkels & McCoy, Inc., 2022 BL 300819, E.D. Pa., No. 2:20-cv-06281, 8/26/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com