Travel shutdown delays status conference in sex harassment case


Two off-island lawyers could not make it to a status conference in federal court in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a woman against Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC and her then-supervisor at IPI.

The woman and defendants IPI and Stephen Brown, through their respective counsels, have asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI that the status conference, currently set for today, April 16, be rescheduled to May 28, 2020.

William Fitzgerald, who is counsel for the woman, and IPI counsel Kelley M. Butcher, informed the court that they are both currently off-island and, due to travel shutdowns and other concerns, will not be able to return to Saipan by April 16.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted the request on Monday and acknowledged that, although the status conference could be handled via telephone or video conference, the two lawyers have also been busy with personal and work life adjustments required by the COVID-19 situation.

The woman, who is a Chinese national, accused Stephen Brown of sexual harassment and IPI of ignoring her complaint against him. The complainant is demanding unspecified damages from Brown and IPI. The woman is a pit supervisor and has worked for IPI since Sept. 10, 2015. Her direct supervisor was Brown, a U.S. citizen, who was the pit manager.

In IPI’s answer to the lawsuit, IPI asserted that it investigated the complaint and took appropriate action. Butcher did not specify IPI’s action.

Butcher said that IPI had a policy in place against sexual harassment and the plaintiff has not suffered any adverse employment action.

IPI admits that the plaintiff started employment on Sept. 10, 2015, but denies the inference that she has had continuous employment with IPI since that date. The lawyer said IPI denies that Brown was promoted.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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