Melodie Nannenga, Scottsdale Optometrist, Files Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Nationwide Vision; District Director Retaliated, She Says

A local optometrist alleges in a federal complaint that Nationwide Vision allowed one of its executives to retaliate against her after she filed a sexual harassment complaint.

Melodie Nannenga claims that soon after she was hired at the Nationwide store at Power Road and Southern Avenue in Mesa in June of 2006, district director Mike Oppat made unwelcome advances and comments to her. He asked her to come with him to his condo in Cabo San Lucas, for example, and told her he was happy she worked at that location because he liked to see her, the lawsuit states.

She complained to her boss, Doctor Palmeiri, who reportedly told her he'd deal with the harassment. Not long after that, the suit says, Oppat sent her a suggestive e-mail:

Mr. Oppat continued his sexual harassment, including sending an email to plaintiff in or around late February-early March 2007 in response to Ms. Nannenga's request to purchase a product of a certain product brand, Heine, telling plaintiff that her "heiny was nice", with the email subject line, "your heine," which Ms. Nannenga believed was referring crudely to her body.

Nannenga complained about Oppat to another of Nationwide's managing doctors, and soon asked Palmeiri if she could transfer to one of Nationwide's Gilbert locations at Power and Ray roads. Palmeiri agreed, and things worked out for a while. When Oppat would come into the store as part of his job to oversee the region's shops, Nannenga would hide out in her office until he was gone.

Then Palmeiri quit Nationwide in March of 2008 -- and Oppat decided to move his office to the stop in which Nannenga worked. In retaliation for her complaint, her lawsuit states, Oppat repeatedly rearranged her work schedule and patient appointments to make life inconvenient for her.

She complained to management again. Nationwide responded by offering to let her work in locations far from her East Valley home, saying that Oppat had a right to work out of the Gilbert office. She told the company she wouldn't work at that office if Oppat was allowed to be there. That was in April of 2008.

Technically, she's still "on the staff but not seeing patients," a store assistant tells us.

Nannenga now works for LasikPlus in Scottsdale.

Nobody returned our calls on this one: Not David Larkin, Nannenga's lawyer. (We couldn't find a number for Nannenga, though we did find her Facebook site.) Not Nationwide Vision's president, Al Bernstein. Not Mike Oppat.

Nannenga seeks back pay and punitive damages.

UPDATE: January 2012 -- Nannenga and Nationwide settle the lawsuit.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.