Audry Urda v. PetSmart, Inc. and Matthew Girard

Posted October 13th, 2011.


Complaint Details Hostile Work Environment, Sexual HarassmentWrongful Termination

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos,201-493-1027, [email protected]

(October 13, 2011, Richmond, VA) – PetSmart, Inc., (NASDAQ: PETM)was barking up the wrong tree when it subjected its employee Audrey Urda to a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and other intentional torts in not one but two of its stores.

Ms. Urda filed a civil suit today against the multi-billion dollar specialty pet retailer and one of its managers in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond, VA. The complaint provides explicit details of the sexually degrading and humiliating verbal taunts and the provocative and threatening behavior to which Ms. Urda  was consistently subjected during her five-year tenure as a Pet Care Specialist in two Pet Smart locations – the first in New York, the later in Virginia.

David Sanford and Katherine Leong of Sanford, Wittels & Heisler LLP in Washington, DC are representing Ms. Urda.

“Audrey was subjected to some of the most egregious and explicit sexual harassment in not one, but twoPet Smart stores, from two successive managers,” said Mr. Sanford.  “These managers’ behavior – and the corporation’s tolerance of it – is not only wrong, it is uncivilized.  The corporation may tout its support for animal rights, but its managers’ treatment of Audrey, who had been a stellar employee, was nothing short of inhumane.”

A resident of Virginia, Ms. Urda began working for PetSmart in October 2005, as a Pet Care Specialist in the Pet Care Department of the corporation’s Vestal, New York, store. In July 2009 – as a result of sexual harassment by the Vestal store manager Charles Vesseley –she transferred to the PetSmart store in Chesterfield, Virginia, where she continued working as a Pet Care Specialist under the supervision of Store Manager Matthew Girard.

While working the Chesterfield, Virginia store, Manager Matthew Girard told Ms. Urda, “I imagine me cumming so hard in your mouth that your head explodes and your brains hit the ceiling.”

On multiple occasions, Mr. Girard sexually assaulted Ms. Urda behind locked doors, offenses to which he has already pleaded guilty in Chesterfield County Court.

Although Ms. Urda took reasonable action to respond to both managers’ inappropriate and discriminatory behavior, her reports to the Pet Smart corporate management resulted in retaliation and, in July 2010, her wrongful termination.

PetSmart is the largest specialty pet products and services retailer in the world. Its 2010 revenue was $5.4 billion. Incorporated in Delaware, the company’s corporate headquarters are located in Phoenix, AZ.

The Complaint details numerous counts against both defendants, including sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., negligent hiring, negligent retention and wrongful discharge against PetSmart; and false imprisonment, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against both PetSmart and Mathew Girard.

Ms. Urda is requesting compensatory and punitive damages, legal costs, front pay, back pay and other relief the Court may determine.  A jury trial is requested.

Sanford Wittels & Heisler is a law firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in some of the major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters.