U.S. Employee Takes Israeli Caesarstone to Court for Failing to Protect From Sexual Assault

Lawsuit asserts company didn't act on complaints against key customer, 'condoned sexual harassment'

File photo: Caesarstone headquarters in Kibbutz Sdot Yam, Israel, June 4, 2011.
Itzik Ben-Malki

Caesarstone, the Israeli maker of quartz countertops, is being accused by a U.S. employee of failing to protect her from sexual assault and harassment by a major customer and for tolerating a workplace environment that “condoned sexual harassment.”

The February 7 suit was filed in California Superior Court by Jennifer Floyd, who was hired as a regional sales manager based in Los Angeles for Caesarstone. It also names the customer, Moshe Shemtov, and two companies he controls – M&M Marble and Granite and S&E Stone – as defendants.

The suit alleges that the workplace culture at Caesarstone allowed for sexually inappropriate comments, innuendos and jokes at the expense of female employees. However, Floyd’s main complaint is about Shemtov and how the company allegedly handled his alleged behavior.

>> Read more: 'We are all sexually harassed in the Israeli army, almost on a daily basis' ■ Sexual harassment of Israeli minors more than doubled in past decade, data shows

In the suit, Floyd asserts that she was warned by her supervisor Tony Oliver when she was hired in February 2017 that Shemtov was “misogynistic” and routinely made inappropriate comments, but that he accounted for a significant $13 million of annual sales for the company and was close to Caesarstone’s Israeli shareholders.

In the summer of 2017, the suit alleges Shemtov convinced her after multiple text messages to have dinner with him and afterwards to come to his home, where he allegedly assaulted her. After the incident, Floyd alleges, Shemtov continued to harass her. When she rejected his advances and distanced herself from him, he became threatening.

The suit asserts that Caesarstone managers failed to act and that as a single mother Floyd was not in a position to quit her job. “The severe trauma caused by the sexual assault, the continuing hostile work environment and the subsequent retaliation became intolerable and caused Ms. Floyd to miss work and cancel meetings,” it says. Eventually, Floyd took a medical leave of absence.

As an example of the allegedly hostile workplace culture at Caesarstone, Floyd’s suit cites an October 2017 company dinner during which the offensive comments about women grew so intense that the female vice president for human resources, Shayne Ingersoll, insisted on leaving early. CEO Dan Clifford joined her, the suit says, but neither took action before or afterwards to stop the behavior or reprimand employees.

In response, Caesarstone, which is headquartered in Kibbutz Sdot Yam and trades on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, said it would respond to the suit in court. Floyd’s attorney, Richard T. Marquez, noted in response to queries by TheMarker that Floyd had filed a civil, not a criminal, suit.

“Any [financial] exposure to the public company will depend on the information/evidence gathered during the discovery phase of the litigation. At this time, we are at the beginning of the discovery phase and therefore any assessment regarding the issue is premature,” he said.