Sears, Roebuck & Co. and its regional managers should be held accountable for discrimination based on national origin and age, a former employee argued Tuesday in California federal court in a rebuttal to Sears’ attempt to have her case dismissed.

Suzy Dempsey, 51, a native of Brazil, claims her superiors violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act by harassing her because of her nationality and age. She says Sears supervisors, including herself, had been under pressure to hire younger men and applicants without families.

Dempsey responded to the motion for summary judgment by reiterating that her original complaint was sufficient for the case to move forward.

Jennifer Yang of Shegerian & Associates Inc., which represents Dempsey, told Law360 that when Dempsey complained to human resources about the pressure to hire young, childless workers, one manager tried to convince other supervisors to treat her poorly.

“They were setting her up to fail. They created a custom performance ‘improvement plan,’ because they thought she should perform better, but we contend that’s an illusion,” Yang said. “A workplace should definitely be free of harassment and discrimination. That’s why the law provides protection.”

Dempsey, a Los Angeles County resident, worked for Sears for 11 years, Yang said. In July, the pressure on Dempsey became so great, she went to her doctor and took stress leave from her job, according to her complaint. She never returned and says she was forced to resign from her job two months later.

Dempsey filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in December, and the defendants had the case removed to federal court and filed a motion to dismiss in February.

In the motion for summary judgment, Sears claimed Dempsey failed to prove that she was harassed or passed over for promotions because of her national origin and age.

“The allegations amount to nothing more than ordinary tribulations of the workplace that cannot support any harassment claim,” the motion said.

Dempsey’s attorneys are working to bring the case back to the state level, saying the alleged violations took place in California and the managers named in the case are from California.

Representatives of Sears did not respond to a request for comment.

Dempsey is represented by Carney R. Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates Inc.

Sears is represented by Muizz Rafique and Jon G. Miller of Littler Mendelson PC.

The case is Dempsey v. Sears Home Improvement Products et al., case number 2:15-cv-0079, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.


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