One Year After Landmark Sexual Harassment Suit, Still No Remedy For Sexual Harassment at USSA
On the anniversary of a multi-million dollar lawsuit stemming from an employee’s sexual harassment complaints, U.S. Security Associates seems to be content to keep sweeping their harassment issues under the rug.
One year ago today, U.S. Security Associates (USSA) – the fourth largest security firm in the country – was found liable by a federal jury in what one judge called “the most egregious case of sexual harassment, retaliation and tortuous conduct that has been tried in this court.” The court issued judgment against USSA for more than $2.3 million.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama found USSA liable for compensatory and punitive damages for sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation, wanton supervision and/or retention of an offending supervisor. That supervisor was Chris Hargrove, who was found to have committed assault and battery, invasion of privacy and intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon employee Jamie Marks.
Jamie Marks won her trial. But the company’s trouble with Chris Hargrove didn’t end there.
On May 31, 2011, the EEOC announced that USSA would pay $1.95 million to settle a lawsuit charging unlawful employment practices, gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The suit alleged that Hargrove harassed 6 other USSA employees with unwelcome sexual demands, demeaning gestures, inappropriate touching and other sexually offensive conduct.
In settling the suit, USSA agreed to a consent decree in Alabama, revising policies and complaint procedures as well as training and accountability of supervisors accused of harassment.
The company also recently settled a lawsuit alleging Chris Hargrove discriminated against and harassed another employee and his daughter who both worked for the company.
So, how has U.S. Security Associates improved its work environment for security officers so far?
Most recently in Pennsylvania, former employee Lisa Garner filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against her supervisor, Todd Messer, who allegedly harassed Lisa, displayed lewd behavior, and left business cards at his USSA worksite – the Philadelphia Nursing Home – for his adult themed side business. After complaining to the company about his inappropriate behavior, Lisa was fired from her job.
While Lisa Garner struggles to make ends meet, Todd Messer still works for USSA at the Philadelphia Nursing Home, where he continues to supervise female employees. “It needs to stop,” Lisa said in a recent interview. “Here I am about to lose everything and the man who did this to me is still collecting a paycheck. It’s not right.”
After being held liable for $4 million as a consequence of irresponsible and unacceptable behavior by managers and supervisors, U.S. Security Associates has done little to remedy sexual harassment in their worksites nationwide. As we’ve said, there is no place for sexual harassment in today’s security industry. Stand for Security and other national organizations are waiting on USSA to adopt a comprehensive policy that will demonstrate its commitment to ending sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace now.