Even After Paying $4 Million, USSA Still Showing “Cavalier Attitude” Toward Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Despite paying more than $4 million in the past year for judgments and consent orders arising from sexual harassment and worker retaliation, U.S. Security Associates (USSA) seems to have no qualms about ignoring workplace abuse.
In Philadelphia, two female employees have recently filed sexual harassment complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission. The workers were terminated after complaining about the harassment.
Isolated incident? Not for this company. In Alabama, yet another employee has a pending lawsuit against USSA. The employee asserts that USSA discriminated and retaliated against him after he complained that the district manager there had sexually harassed his daughter, who had also been hired by the company. USSA continues to fight this case despite it involving a manager who was found guilty of sexual harassment and abuse in multiple previous lawsuits.
The Alabama district manager, Christopher Hargrove, has built a history of misconduct working for USSA as the company stood by and ignored it. On May 31 of this year, it was announced that U.S. Security Associates agreed to pay $1.95 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the EEOC against the company stemming from Hargrove’s actions. Under terms of the settlement, USSA has entered into a 42-month consent decree and must pay $1.95 million to seven women who – according to the EEOC suit – were subject to “unwelcome sexual demands, demeaning gestures, inappropriate touching and other sexually offensive conduct.”
“It should serve as a wake-up call for every employer to take its obligations under federal civil rights law seriously,” warned Julie Bean, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “Sexual harassment, when it is not promptly corrected, causes serious harm to its victims and can be a costly matter for the employer.”
But USSA had already been given a wake up call and chose to ignore it. Christopher Hargrove had cost them $2.3 million last year when a federal jury determined the company was liable for compensatory and punitive damages for sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation, and wanton supervision and/or retention of an offending supervisor. Aside from personal charges against Hargrove brought by the victim, the court concluded USSA was also liable, because the company’s “cavalier attitude toward sexual harassment in the workplace coupled with Hargrove’s demonstrated proclivity for sexual harassment of vulnerable women under his supervision provided the perfect storm for the most egregious case of sexual harassment, retaliation and tortuous conduct that has been tried in this court.”
It wasn’t just a problem with one manager — the judge described in her opinion “the reprehensible conduct in this case that went all the way up the corporate ladder.” By her own testimony, another USSA supervisor, Tia Waller-Johnson, not only failed to investigate the allegations of abuse or harassment when they were brought to her attention, she actually ordered background checks into the employees who came forward against Hargrove, and failed to provide any appropriate training to managers and supervisors. How did USSA fix the issue? They gave her a promotion.
If U.S. Security Associates wants to be trusted as a responsible security contractor, the company will need to show they’ve learned their lesson and take serious actions against managers and supervisors who act inappropriately or ignore employees’ complaints. Until they’ve shown some improvement in taking this issue head on, we’ll be keeping close watch. There is no place for sexual harassment in today’s security industry.