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The incident occurred outside Cosmetic Essence Inc.’s facility on Plantation Road in 2010.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
A woman who was sexually assaulted on the job by a co-worker has settled a lawsuit accusing her employer of failing to check the criminal background of her assailant.
Had that check been done, the woman claimed in Roanoke’s federal court, it would have revealed that her attacker was a convicted sex offender.
The lawsuit had sought $6.3 million from Cosmetic Essence Inc., which operates a manufacturing facility on Plantation Road in Roanoke.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit were Retailers and Manufacturing Distribution Marking Service, a New Jersey company that provided labor at the plant, and Sunstates Security, which employed security guards there.
In an order dismissing the case Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Glen Conrad wrote that all of the parties “have resolved and settled the claims.”
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
After the lawsuit was filed, Cosmetic Essence filed a cross-claim against Sunstates Security, essentially shifting any blame to the security company. That case was also resolved with the settlement.
The woman, who is not being named because she was the victim of a sex crime, says in the lawsuit that she was hired by Cosmetic Essence in February 2010, the same week that Nathaniel Seymore Martin was hired.
At the time, Martin was listed on the state sex offender registry as having been convicted of aggravated sexual battery.
Failing to check Martin’s background put the woman and all female employees at risk, the woman claimed.
After working a late shift in May 2010, the woman said, she was walking to her car in the company parking lot when she was attacked by Martin.
Martin was later convicted in Roanoke County Circuit Court of sexual penetration with an animate object and was sentenced to three years in prison.
The lawsuit stated that Cosmetic Essence and Retailers and Manufacturing knew or should have known that Martin was a convicted sex offender, and breached their duty to provide a safe workplace.
There is no absolute legal requirement of employers in Virginia to screen job applicants for criminal convictions, Lynn Jacob, chairwoman of the Labor Relations and Employment Law Section of the Virginia Bar Association, said in an interview shortly after the lawsuit was filed.
However, the state Supreme Court has ruled there is a duty to take reasonable care in the hiring of certain types of employees, such as those who work with children, Jacob said.
The lawsuit alleged there was a pattern at Cosmetic Essence of hiring sex offenders and convicted felons because there was a need for “a steady stream of low-cost labor at the facility.”
It also claimed that the woman had complained before the attack to her supervisor about Martin’s conduct, which included sexually suggestive comments and advances.
Les Bowers, one of the attorneys who represented the woman, said Friday he could not comment on the details of the settlement. “It was amicably resolved between the parties to their satisfaction,” Bowers said.
An attorney for Cosmetic Essence could not be reached Friday.
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