LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A once-undocumented immigrant is suing her former boss and employer over claims he repeatedly sexually assaulted her and threatened her with deportation at a fast food restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip.
The federal trial over claims of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation began in U.S. District Court on Monday. In court documents, Sandra Perez claims the manager at the now-closed Sbarro Pizza inside the Monte Carlo hotel raped her on a weekly basis inside the location’s walk-in cooler.
If she did not comply, her boss would alert immigration authorities about his employee’s undocumented status, the lawsuit claims. The Monte Carlo is now the Park MGM.
“My mother bring us here — she was a single mother,” Perez said about her arrival to the United States two decades ago. “It was too hard in Mexico for us to survive.”
Perez said her real test of survival began in the spring of 2016. She was working in the kitchen at the Monte Carlo Sbarro with several other family members, the lawsuit said.
“Sometimes I look around and see if somebody else is there and there is nobody else around — only me,” Perez said about working alone, prepping and cooking pizza.
Several months after she was hired, Perez said the manager “…repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted…” her, “…[using] Sandra’s gender (female) and undocumented status to force her to stay silent,” court documents allege.
“He threatened me with immigration,” Perez told the 8 News Now I-Team’s David Charns. “He threatened to deport me: ‘I can call immigration.’”
“How did that make you feel?” Charns asked.
“Just imagine,” Perez said. “Angry.”
The lawsuit claims the manager expected sexual favors from Perez in return for the hiring of her family members. It states, “[the manager] was granting a favor or advantage to her by hiring her and her family and he expected repeated sexual favors in return.”
The majority of the alleged abuse happened inside the restaurant’s walk-in cooler, where the lawsuit claims the manager had access to lock the door from the inside.
Exhibits in the lawsuit include depositions from the manager, Perez, Perez’s family members and other potential witnesses.
“When you were having sex with Sandra in the cooler, did you have as the manager of the store any concerns about the food safety issues associated with having sex in the cooler?” a lawyer asked the manager in a deposition.
“No,” the manager responded, adding the sex was consensual.
“He raped me because it was not in consent,” Perez said. “You know when it’s consent and when it’s not. So I call rape and he harmed me.”
The company transferred Perez to a different Sbarro location on the Las Vegas Strip later that year, the lawsuit said. The manager claimed Perez was having issues “with management and employees” and “needed a fresh start,” the deposition provided in the lawsuit said.
In 2018, the Nevada Equal Rights Commission confirmed Perez’s allegation of a “sexually hostile work environment,” effectively allowing her to sue.
“Evidence obtained during this investigation confirmed [the manager] engaged and promoted a sexually hostile work environment toward Ms. Perez,” the NERC finding said. “[The manager] transferred Ms. Perez from the respondent’s Monte Carlo location to their Bally’s location when confronted by Ms. Perez’s family members over the accusations that [other employees] were sexually harassing Ms. Perez and her family members. It is possible if Ms. Perez’s family members had not confronted the alleged discrimination offenders it is more than likely Ms. Perez would still be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.”
Sbarro denied the claim, according to the NERC, “because various employees frequently go back and forth between the front and back of the store.”
In his deposition, the general manager said no one else ever entered the cooler during the instances in question. He also said he and Perez never communicated via text, e-mail or social media during her employment or afterward, the lawsuit said.
“You come to a new country, you have to learn a new language, you have to learn a culture,” Perez’s attorney, Jenny Foley, Ph.D., said. “And then you have to try to function within all of that new thing. When something goes wrong in that process, I think it’s particularly horrifying.”
Perez hopes the jury will side with her.
“I am a survivor because I tried to defend myself,” she said. “Nobody cares. And I’m the example that nobody cares, because I was screaming for help.”
Attorneys for Perez filed a motion for a mistrial in the case Wednesday over claims made in court regarding Perez’s immigration status. Perez said she has obtained a Green Card since her 2016 employment with Sbarro.
Lawyers for Sbarro and the general manager did not return a request for comment. Representatives for Sbarro also did not return an email request — which included a note about the sexual acts happening in a food storage area.