Employees claim insurance agent sexually harassed them at work

Kelly Holleran Aug. 9, 2010, 5:21am

Three State Farm employees say the owner of an Orange agency subjected them to sexual harassment.

Lizabeth Hogan, Kimberly Tamberella and Linda Watkins filed a lawsuit July 21 in Jefferson County District Court against State Farm County Mutual Insurance Co. and its subsidiaries.

The plaintiffs claim they worked for Carl Himel Insurance Agency, which Carl Himel operated with his wife, Denise Himel. They say that throughout their employment, they were subjected to unwelcome and perverted sexual conduct by Carl Himel of which his wife was aware.

For example, Carl Himel obtained and watched pornographic pictures and movies on his office computer and masturbated in his office during normal business hours while female employees were present, according to the complaint.

In addition, Carl Himel made perverted sexual comments toward the plaintiffs and other female employees, displayed photographs of himself dressed in various positions that were sexual in nature and sent e-mails full of sexual content, the suit states.

The plaintiffs were also engaged in phone conversations with Carl Himel of a lewd nature, including phone sex, the complaint says.

"This conduct was not occasional; rather, it was constant, ongoing, and pervasive," the suit states. "It created a work environment that became increasingly hostile and difficult, forcing Plaintiffs to leave their employment at Carl Himel's insurance agency."

Because of Carl Himel's actions, the plaintiffs claim they lost earnings and employment benefits; experienced mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering and inconvenience; and lost their normal life.

The plaintiffs allege negligence, negligent retention of employees, negligent hiring of employees, negligent training of employees, negligent supervision of employees, negligent failure to provide employees with a reasonably safe workplace and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the defendants.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek an unspecified judgment, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs, exemplary damages and other relief the court deems just.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A187-347.

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