A former web engineer for Sony Electroncs Inc. is suing her ex-employer, alleging she was fired in 2018 in retaliation for refusing the sexual advances of her co-workers and then complaining about the hostile work environment.
The allegations in 34-year-old Jennifer Pochue’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit include sexual harassment and discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination and wrongful termination. The suit filed Monday seeks unspecified damages.
A Sony representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Sony hired Pochue in November 2015 as the quality assurance engineering analyst for Sony’s Marina del Rey office after relocating from New York, where she passed on a lucrative offer for a position there to accept the Sony job, the suit states.
Pochue was the only woman on her team and her supervisors, managers and other employees repeatedly harassed her because of her sex, with conduct that included unwanted advances from her male team members, the suit states.
“Arguably friendly at first, Sony’s advances quickly escalated to highly inappropriate, romantic and sexual in nature,” according to the suit.
Pochue’s male colleagues pressed the Asian American plaintiff about her personal life and repeatedly asked her if she was interested in dating Asian men, the suit states.
At a showing of a “Star Wars” movie for Sony employees, a male colleague forced his way into the seat next to Pochue and asked, “I like the way your neck looks … when can I take you out?” the suit states.
The same colleague knew that Pochue arrived early to work and where she parked her car, so he put his car next to her regular space and waited for her to get there in the mornings, the suit states. The colleague also referred to her as his “slut,” according to the suit.
Pochue complained to Sony’s human resources department, but instead of helping her, a manager there told her, “It is OK for people to have inter-office relationships at Sony,” the suit states.
Another male colleague made multiple unsuccessful dating advances to Pochue, the suit states. During a work-related lunch in mid-2017, he pulled his eyelids so they were slanted and said to the plaintiff, “Look guys, I’m Asian,” the suit states.
Pochue again complained to the human resources manager about alleged harassment, but the manager told her to stay “hushed” to avoid upsetting members of the small department in which the plaintiff worked, according to the suit.
Feeling that she was on her own and that Sony management would not help her thwart the alleged advances, Pochue began telling the male colleagues she accused of harassing her that she was only interested in women, the suit states.
However, her efforts only encouraged her male team members to include her in conversations about their sex lives and the various Asian women they were dating and their sexual performances, the suit states.
In citing yet another example of alleged harassment, the suit states that a Sony manager often asked Pochue “inappropriate and demeaning questions” regarding her bisexuality, including the frequency and type of sex she had with women.
The alleged harassers continued bothering Pochue via text and Skype even while she went on leave in 2017 to recover from back surgery and to take care of her ill mother, the suit states.
The suit additionally alleges that Sony management hacked into her cloud drive and obtained intimate photos of her, then accused her of putting the images on her work laptop, according to the suit.
“Then Sony used the private materials to label (Pochue) a slut in a misguided effort to discredit her complaints about sexual harassment and sex discrimination,” the suit alleges.
Sony management made the accusations against Pochue on the same day in June 2018 that they had promised to investigate her harassment allegations, the suit states.
Sony management fired Pochue a month later after telling her that the presence of the intimate photos of her on her work computer violated company policy, the suit states.