Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr
Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr

What’s funny to one is not funny to all, especially if the humor is about a gag gift male sex organ at a Trader Joe’s employee Christmas party.

Trader Joe’s and a former employee settled his lawsuit alleging he was fired for complaining about being given a gift resembling a male sex organ during the 2014 Christmas party at one of the grocery chain’s Pasadena stores.

Court papers filed on behalf of plaintiff Paul D. Roberts in Los Angeles Superior Court stated the case was resolved, but no terms were divulged and his lawyer, William Stoner, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Roberts had sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, alleging wrongful termination, sexual harassment, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation and negligence.

In court papers filed Friday in connection with the settlement, lawyers for Trader Joe’s denied any wrongdoing on the part of the company and stated that Roberts was treated “lawfully at all times” during his employment.

According to his complaint filed in April, Roberts was hired as a crew member at the Trader Joe’s store on Lake Avenue in February 2007. In December 2014, a company Christmas party gift exchange was held and employee attendance “was expected and implicitly required,” the suit stated.

The party occurred on a day Roberts was not scheduled to work, but he says he felt compelled to attend to maintain a good relationship with co- workers and supervisors.

After Roberts arrived at the party, co-workers seemed “excited” about his arrival and anxious for him to open his gift, which was given to him by co- worker Armina Asefvasziri, according to his court papers.

“Plaintiff opened the wrapped package and was shocked, embarrassed and humiliated to discover that the gift was a small penis with testicles which, when submerged in water, would increase in size,” the complaint stated. “Mr. Roberts was incredibly distraught in receiving such an obnoxious and offensive item, particularly in front of his supervisor and having received it from a female.”

Roberts said he left the party feeling “humiliated and embarrassed.” He filed an internal complaint and told supervisors that if he had given a similar gift to a female co-worker, he likely would have been reprimanded or fired, according to his court papers.

Roberts felt one of the bosses was nonchalant and did not take him seriously, and claimed the same supervisor later interrogated him about false accusations Asefvasziri allegedly made about the plaintiff.

Meanwhile, Asefvasziri approached him four days after the party and teased him about his reaction to the gift, according to his court papers.

A human resources staff member told Roberts in January 2015 that his complaint was being investigated, but he was fired two days later, according to his lawsuit.

–City News Service 

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