Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Jan. 1, 2014, 3:57pm

Defendants named in a woman’s lawsuit alleging she was fired after reporting threats and physical abuse have denied the allegations and accused the plaintiff of acting unethically, barring her from recovery.

Jean Garriot filed her complaint on Oct. 29 claiming she began working for defendant Taco Bell Corp. in 1992.

Then in 2011, she was working for the Fairview Heights restaurant when defendant Tamaria Kitchen, one of Garriott’s co-workers, allegedly began verbally and violently threatening the plaintiff, the suit states.

Garriott claims she reported Kitchen’s actions, but the restaurant did nothing to prevent further confrontations.

On Oct. 31, 2011, Garriott alleges Kitchen pushed her. She says she reported the incident to her general manager, defendant Barbara Bishop, but no punishments were made and Garriott was terminated from her position, the complaint states.

“Garriott’s discharge from her employment with Taco Bell is causally related to Garriott's report of her co-worker’s Kitchen’s verbal, physical, and violent and illegal threats and illegal physical push/attack,” the suit states.

Defendants Taco Bell Corp, Kitchen and Bishop answered the complaint on Dec. 11 through attorney Charles E. Reis of Littler Mendelson in St. Louis denying the allegations and demanding a trial by jury.

Kitchen argues that Garriott consented to any acts that allegedly caused her injuries, and further argues that Garriott did not suffer any damages as a result of Kitchen’s actions.

However, Kitchen claims that her consented actions were out of self defense and were done out of business necessity.

“Any actions she took were taken in self-defense: Garriott threatened a force against Kitchen; Kitchen was not the aggressor; the danger of harm was imminent; the force threatened against Kitchen was unlawful; she had an actual belief that a danger existed, force was necessary to avert the danger, and the amount of force used was necessary; and her belief was reasonable.”

Bishop argues that she is not accountable because she did not interfere with any relationship between Garriott and Taco Bell.

Taco Bell argues that it “had legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for any actions taken” with respect to Garriott.

It also claims that Garriott did not engage in any protected activity and was not subject to any “adverse action.”

“Taco Bell states it would have taken the same action regarding plainitff’s employment at Taco Bell Corp even absent any alleged retaliatory motive,” the answer says.

All three defendants claim Garriott’s complaint should be barred according to the doctrine of unclean hands, which states that a plaintiff should not be entitled to an award because the plaintiff is acting unethically or has not acted in good faith with regards to the subject of the complaint.

Garriott seeks a judgment of more than $250,000.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot scheduled a mandatory status conference for Jan. 13 at 9 a.m.

Michael J. Brunton and Mary M. Stewart of Brunton Law Offices in Collinsville represent Garriott.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 13-L-551

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