Port Lavaca woman sues former employer claiming wrongful termination

March 13, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 12, 2011 at 9:13 p.m.

A Port Lavaca woman has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, claiming she was wrongfully terminated because of her sex and disability.

Tonia Martinets filed the lawsuit against Basic Energy Services in Federal court on March 3.

She was fired as a staff assistant with the South Texas Region of Basic Energy Services, 5606 N. Navarro St., on March 20, 2009, over what she claims was retaliation for sexual harassment complaints she made against her former supervisor.

Martinets' harassment allegedly began in August 2008, when her former immediate supervisor, safety manager Eduardo Ortiz, began making suggestive statements toward her, asking her to bring sexy pictures to work and inquiring whether she had ever kissed or had an affair with any of her old bosses, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiff made several complaints to the South Texas Region Human Resources manager Theresa Mott, but the defendants failed to take any action against Ortiz, according to the lawsuit.

Tired of being ignored, Martinets informed Mott on March, 18, 2009, that she was taking her complaints to the company's corporate office.

Two days later, Martinets was laid off due to a purported lack of work, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiff claimed her illness was also a factor in her termination.

Martinets was diagnosed with Behcet's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease, as well as Celiac Disease, a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food.

The lawsuit contends the defendants were aware of Martinets' ailments, as she regularly visited her rheumatologist during her employment.

Prior to filing the lawsuit, Martinets took her complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After reviewing the evidence, the EEOC issued a letter of determination finding that Basic Energy Services had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC found that Martinets had been subjected to improper sexual comments from Ortiz, and Basic Energy Services' management team reacted adversely when Martinets and other females complained about mistreatment and favoritism toward younger females, who were considered more likely to be receptive to the supervisors' sexual advances.

"It is clear that the human resource department's handling of the charging party's internal complaint in particular and her human resources responsibilities in general was not undertaken in a competent professional manner," according to the EEOC's letter, as it was quoted in the court documents.

Additionally, the EEOC found the defendants had violated the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities act of 1990.

Martinets is seeking attorneys' fees and compensatory damages for back pay, promotions and front pay, which includes accrued interest, insurance benefits, pension benefits, vacation benefits and sick leave.

She is also seeking damages for mental anguish and emotional distress.

"She's standing up for herself in filing this suit," said Martinets' Houston-based attorney, Daryl J. Sinkule. "My client wants to make a difference in how the company operates going forward, even if it takes filing a lawsuit to effect change in internal practices of the company."

Basic Energy Services could not be reached for comment.



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