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Manager’s nude photo leads to lawsuit against local company

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SHELLEY — A pair of lawsuits filed against Golden Valley Natural in Shelley claims two employees were fired from the company after they reported a manager had sent one of them unsolicited pictures of his genitalia.

The two lawsuits were filed by former employees Theresa Peterson and Zachariah Thompson in Bingham County in September and October. Golden Valley Natural, which produces jerky and meat snacks, is listed as the defendant, alongside the employee’s maintenance manager, who EastIdahoNews.com has chosen not to identify since he has not been charged with a crime.

The lawsuits claim Peterson, an employee of Golden Valley Natural since 2016, received a Snapchat from her maintenance manager during her commute home from work on Feb. 18, 2018. When Peterson opened the message, she saw the manager had sent her a photograph of himself nude below the waist. She was shaken and stopped at a nearby gas station to calm down, according to court documents.

Fellow employee Zachariah Thompson happened to be at the gas station when Peterson arrived, and she showed him the photograph the manager sent. Peterson then deleted the manager from her Snapchat contacts, according to court documents. Both parties’ court documents confirm the manager sent a partially nude photo to Peterson through Snapchat.

Ten days later, on Feb. 28, 2018, the manager once again attempted to send pictures to Peterson via Snapchat. Additionally, on March 3, 2018, the manager messaged Peterson a final time, according to court documents filed by both parties. Due to the manager’s repeated attempts to contact her, Peterson reported his behavior to her supervisor and then to Golden Valley’s human resource manager. In court documents, Golden Valley confirmed the human resource department looked into the incident, and in the course of that investigation, the manager admitted he sent the lewd photographs to Peterson.

Golden Valley’s response to the lawsuit argues the pictures the manager sent were inadvertent.

Despite the manager’s confession, Golden Valley did not fire him. Instead, Peterson and Thompson are alleging Golden Valley fired Peterson for reporting the messages in the first place and fired Thompson for knowing about the incident.

In its response, Golden Valley denies that was the reason for the firings. They do not elaborate on the firings in court documents, and Golden Valley officials could not be reached for comment about this case.

Peterson and Thompson filed complaints against Golden Valley Natural and the manager with the Idaho Human Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 2018. The commissions found their cases met the requirements to move forward in court.

In July 2019, the commission wrote a letter addressed to Javier Gabiola, Peterson and Thompson’s attorney, which stated, “The Idaho Human Rights Commission found probable cause to believe that illegal discrimination occurred in the above captioned (Theresa Peterson v. Golden Valley Natural) case.”

After receiving the decision from the Idaho Human Rights Commission, Peterson and Thompson filed civil lawsuits against Golden Valley Natural and the manager claiming damages for sexual harassment (in Thompson’s case), unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

All parties have agreed to attempt to settle the disputes through mediation, which must be completed by May 31, according to court documents. If a resolution cannot be reached, the case will proceed in the court system, potentially leading to a jury trial.

EastIdahoNews.com reached out to lawyers representing both sides for comment but has not received a response.

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