Law360 (April 28, 2021, 5:06 PM EDT) — Pot giant Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. faces allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation from a former employee who claims that in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, he was unfairly fired right after the industry’s busy 4/20 holiday.
In the action filed Tuesday in federal court in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Noel Goodwin claimed that in early April 2020, the general manager of the dispensary he worked at in Reading, Pennsylvania, promoted him to assistant manager, telling him in a text message that she picked him for the job because she thought that his colleagues, all of whom were women, would “listen to a male.”
But according to Goodwin, “many of the female associates became angry and bitter that plaintiff was promoted and not one of them,” and one person in particular “angrily lashed out” at him several times within days of the promotion.
Goodwin claimed that he sought help with the situation, first from his general manager, then from the company’s human resources office. The HR complaint led to an investigation of the incident during which Goodwin was suspended from work, and Goodwin was informed on April 22 that he was being fired.
Goodwin claimed that after he was fired, he was replaced by a woman, and that the company’s decision to fire him was based solely on his general manager’s “unjustified assumption that [Goodwin] could not effectively manage the Reading dispensary’s female employees because he is a male.”
In a statement emailed Wednesday, William Mansour, an attorney for Goodwin, told Law360 that Goodwin, the only male employee at Harvest’s Reading dispensary, was promoted to assistant manager because his female general manager “believed his gender was an asset. It turned out to be a liability.”
Mansour contends that Goodwin faced backlash from his female subordinates because they “resented his promotion,” noting that the company’s investigation into the matter lasted only four days.
Goodwin’s complaint was filed using the company’s former name, Harvest Enterprises. Its new name was introduced in 2018, when Harvest combined with RockBridge Resources Inc.
On Wednesday, a representative for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Goodwin is represented by William P. Mansour of Mansour Law LLC.
Counsel information for Harvest was not immediately available Wednesday.
The case is Goodwin v. Harvest Enterprises Inc., case number 5:21-cv-01919, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.