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Detroit — from www.detroitnews.com – A 38-year-old flight attendant is suing prominent billionaire real estate developer A. Alfred Taubman, claiming he fondled her, tried to rip off her clothing during flights and told her she ruined her life when she got pregnant and should have had an abortion.
Oakland County resident Nicole D. Rock in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday is seeking $29 million in damages on claims Taubman, 88, sexually discriminated, harassed and wrongfully terminated her after six years of employment with the Bloomfield Hills resident’s airline company.
Rock, who began working for Taubman’s company as a flight attendant in March 2005, alleges her civil rights were violated by the Taubman Air Terminals, Inc., CEO and president during the course of her employment because she was “forced to endure horrific illegal acts by defendants of a graphic and sexually harassing nature.”
The unmarried flight attendant claims in the filing she was “subjected to repeated comments, innuendos, advances, and other offensive conduct of a sexual nature” by Taubman.
Taubman allegedly fondled Rock, forcefully kissed her, violently tore buttons off her blouse and ripped a hole in her pantyhose in attempts to force her to participate in sexual acts, among other things, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also says “during a flight, (Taubman) forced his hands down the front of (Rock’s) dress and proceeded to forcefully kiss her on the mouth without her consent … Taubman violently tore buttons off of (Rock’s) blouse.”
Rock claims in the suit she repeatedly asked Taubman to stop harassing her, telling him: “You’re hurting me,” and asking “Are you crazy?” and “Why don’t you hire a prostitute?”
Rock also claims Taubman “became very angry” and told her she “should have gotten an abortion” when she informed him she was pregnant in December, 2009.
During her pregnancy, Rock alleges Taubman teased her about gaining weight, and told her she was “selfish to have a baby.”
The lawsuit does not allege Taubman is the father of Rock’s daughter.
Rock’s attorney, Thomas Warnicke, said his client isn’t currently working. “This has been emotionally devastating for her,” he said.
Warnicke said he arrived at the $29 million figure because of Taubman’s net worth.
“Forbes Magazine in 2012 estimated his wealth at 2.9 billion; we’re seeking 1 percent of his net worth,” Warnicke said.
Phone calls to Taubman’s spokeswoman were not returned Thursday.
Shortly after informing her boss she was pregnant, Rock went on a company-approved disability leave, the suit says.
“The doctor told her she should go on leave because of all the stress she was experiencing,” Warnicke said.
Taubman is accused of objecting to the leave, saying “she was lucky to work for him and she was taking a long vacation,” the suit says.
Rock gave birth in February 2010 and was allegedly forced to return to work that March. She’d been scheduled to return to her job in April.
Immediately after her return, Rock says Taubman engaged in harassing behavior about her decision to have the baby. As a result, the lawsuit says Rock sought and received a second short-term disability leave in February 2011 over “extreme stress, anxiety, fearfulness and depression” from the working conditions she was “forced to endure.” The “severe” conduct resulted in her forced resignation on Feb. 13, 2011.
“Under the law, a forced resignation is deemed a termination,” Warnicke said. “It’s called a constructive discharge; when working conditions are so intolerable a reasonable person would be compelled to resign, the law considers that the same as being terminated.”
The lawsuit contends: “(Rock) was terminated/constructively discharged due to the fact that … Taubman’s sexual and pregnancy-related harassment toward her was severe, pervasive and not going to change, and the abusive working environment was so intolerable that (Rock’s) forced resignation was a reasonable response,” the filing says.
Taubman is a well-known philanthropist, who has shelled out millions to support the Detroit Institute of Arts and the University of Michigan.
He served nine and a half months in prison after being convicted by a federal jury in 2001 for fixing prices at Sotheby’s Auction House, which he owned. He was released in May 2003.