Fired Kansas worker suing Hormel

Published 10:17 am Friday, September 7, 2012

By Joe Harris
Courtesy of Courthouse News

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A woman is claiming Hormel Foods Corp. fired her after she implored it “come out of the dark ages” in its treatment of women.

Deborah Hoss has sued Topeka-based Hormel Foods Sales in Federal Court. Most people know Hormel as the company that brought the world Spam.

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Hoss, an administrative assistant, claims in the complaint that Hormel has a history of sexism in its workforce and she “noticed the company’s male-dominated corporate atmosphere in contrast to the entirely female force of administrative assistants.”

Hoss claims Hormel fired her on April 8, 2011, hours after she completed a company survey designed to allow employees to voice concerns about working conditions.

Hoss says she cut and pasted her responses to the survey and emailed them to other administrative assistants.

In her survey response, Hoss “voiced her opposition to the ‘Old Boy’s Club mentality’ that prevailed at Hormel, which included the ‘denigration and general atmosphere of disrespect for the administrative assistants/support staff,’” the complaint states.

Hoss also argued the administrative assistants were treated as second-class citizens and that there was unmistakable segregation between administrative assistants and management, according to the complaint.

Hoss said she refused to ‘hide in the shadows of fear and intimidation’ any longer, and hoped that her message effected a positive change in the company,” according to the complaint.

Just hours after completing the survey, Hoss says, two of her supervisors called her into a meeting, where one boss slammed down a copy of the email she had sent and said he was furious about it.

Hoss says the boss told her the email was a “misuse of company resources” and fired her on the spot.

She seeks punitive damages for gender discrimination and retaliation.

She is represented by Lynne Jaben Bratcher, with Bratcher Gockel & Kingston, of Kansas City, Mo.