Restaurant disputes harassment claim

Jack Latta jlatta@civitasmedia.com

September 5, 2013

PRESTONSBURG – Though a formal response to a civil complaint alleging sexual harassment may still be weeks away, the owner of a local restaurant responded Thursday to a report about the lawsuit in Wednesday’s edition of The Floyd County Times.

Asharb Inc., owner of the Prestonsburg Arby’s, says three women who sued the company never voiced any concerns about sexual harassment while they were employed by the company.

The restaurant owner was recently named in a lawsuit in which three women allege they were sexually harassed by their general manager. Kasondra Collins, Lafarrah Little and Alisha Blackburn filed the lawsuit in July against Asharb Inc., as well as former store manager David Shawn Allen. Allen is the only employee from the store alleged of any harassing behavior.

The Times was unable to speak to the defendants Tuesday before press deadline. On Wednesday, The Times spoke at length to Ben Cooksey, a representative from Asharb Inc., who indicated that the company does plan to fight the matter and has retained local Prestonburg attorney Larry Brown to represent the company and file its answer to the complaint in the coming weeks.

“Our company has operated numerous stores for many years and we have never had in our history a lawsuit of this nature,” Cooksey said. “We do not tolerate harassment of our employees and all employees that we hire are fully aware of our policy against sexual harassment and what to do if they feel they are being harassed.”

Cooksey says Collins, Little and Blackburn waited until long after they voluntarily quit employment before asserting allegations that management “somehow” allowed the harassment to occur.

“That simply is not the case. Facts have come forth and we believe will continue to come forth establishing the motives of the plaintiffs,” Cooksey said, adding that the plaintiff’s counsel is well aware of their position.

“We are confident and welcome the opportunity to defend this action as may be needed to demonstrate that the law does not hold employers liable for alleged harassment in a case such as this,” Brown said. “It is certainly the case that my client has never and would never ignore, condone or support allegations of harassment of this nature, and the law is quite clear that people claiming harassment have a duty to promptly report such allegations and to follow company policy in so reporting – neither of which any of the three plaintiffs did in this case.”