Berkeley’s Virginia Cleaners is facing a second lawsuit for its alleged negligent handling of an employee who reportedly had a history of sexually assaulting and battering female customers and co-workers.
In the lawsuit, filed in May, Virginia Cleaners tailor Tito Guerrero is accused of forcibly fondling the unnamed plaintiff’s bare buttocks and pushing his finger up toward her vagina while altering her dress, according to court documents. The lawsuit also alleges that business owner Samil Kim was aware of Guerrero’s previous inappropriate sexual behavior but did not act on the information.
“This owner did not do a background check. He did not check references,” prosecutor Todd Emanuel said. “He ignored multiple complaints about sexual assault while Mr. Guerrero was employed there.”
According to court documents, Virginia Cleaners — also known as Samjung Corporation — was first sued in October 2014, when another unidentified plaintiff alleged that Guerrero made lewd comments and groped her breasts, and that the business was aware of similar prior incidents.
There were at least two additional reports filed in March 2013 and January 2014 to Berkeley Police Department, both claiming that Guerrero touched the plaintiffs inappropriately.
Kim and his previous attorney, Matthew Wisinski, could not be reached for comment. Greg Groeneveld, Kim’s current attorney, declined to comment on the case.
In depositions conducted during the first lawsuit, BPD Detective Melissa Kelly said the manager of Virginia Cleaners recounted three instances in which female employees complained about Guerrero groping them.
In the deposition after the first lawsuit was filed, Guerrero denied touching the plaintiff in a sexual manner.
“What my intention was, even though I knew it wasn’t right, was to raise her breasts so that the dress would … (line up) correctly,” Guerrero said in the deposition.
Guerrero also said in his deposition that he was never formally instructed on policies regarding proper interaction with female customers. He said he did not read the store policy when he signed it and received an English employee handbook, though he exclusively spoke Spanish.
Kim admitted in his deposition that he did not investigate Guerrero at all when hiring him.
Emanuel, who also handled the first case, said it was settled in April when Virginia Cleaners agreed to pay the plaintiff $700,000. Emanuel added that Kim was required to sign an agreement mandating his business to pay an additional $100,000 if Guerrero were rehired.
Guerrero remained employed for several months after the lawsuit was first filed, though his employment has since been terminated, according to Emanuel. He alleged that Guerrero fondled the plaintiff in the second lawsuit without her consent during this time period.
“(The second plaintiff) has an understanding that all of these victims preceded her, and she is dumbfounded and outraged that the owner of Virginia Cleaners allowed Tito Guerrero to keep working there knowing he was a sexual predator,” Emanuel said. “Her chief motivation is corporate accountability and accountability of Mr. Samil Kim.”
A settlement conference for the most recent lawsuit will be held April 19.