A former airport security employee for Allied Universal Security Services (Allied) recently filed a lawsuit against the company and several of its employees. The complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, contains shocking descriptions of serious sexual harassment and racial discrimination that allegedly occurred during LaDonna Powell’s (Powell) employment post at John F. Kennedy Airport. New York and New Jersey Port Authority contracts with Allied for their services at various transportation centers in our area.
The facts outlined in court papers depict Powell as a model employee. She began her career with Allied as a part-time security guard at John F. Kennedy Airport in 2012. Over the years she received several promotions, eventually rising to the role of supervisor/trainer. She was working in this role when Allied abruptly terminated her employment in 2016.
On October 10, 2017, Powell filed her lawsuit alleging that Allied and seven of its supervisors created and maintained a racially and sexually hostile environment. Her lawsuit also alleges that when she complained about the behavior and repeatedly refused to engage in lewd acts, the company fired her. The complaint requests relief for violations of federal, New York State and New York City laws.
The New York Post reported that Powell’s complaint contains lurid details about incidents involving her supervisors that resulted in “harrowing torment.” Some of them include:
Powell claims in her lawsuit that the treatment she received directly violates anti-discrimination and harassment laws including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, New York State Human Rights Law, and New York City Human Rights Law. Under these laws, an employer may not discriminate against an employee because of his or her race, national origin or sex. Treating an employee differently because of one of these protected characteristics is illegal. Harassment based on these characteristics can also be illegal, for example, when it creates a hostile work environment or results in an adverse employment action.
Powell’s lawsuit also alleges that Allied fired her in direct retaliation for trying to put a stop to the constant harassment and discrimination. On multiple occasions, Powell reported sexual, violent, and racial misconduct to supervisors and managers, but they ignored her pleas for help. She also filed formal internal complaints about being treated in a discriminatory manner such as not receiving breaks and pay for overtime hours. The lawsuit further alleges that Powell was not the only employee to complain about the sexual and racial harassment.
In 2015 Powell began “complaining regularly to supervisors at Port Authority about the mistreatment, harassment, and discrimination taking place at Allied.” Her complaining triggered a “campaign of retaliation.” After months of mistreatment and complaining Allied fired her. Powell is certain that the company did so in direct retaliation for complaining about the racial and sexual hostility at Allied because according to court papers, just a few days before she was fired one supervisor said, “if we had a hundred LaDonnas,” Allied would be a much better run organization.”
Retaliation and discrimination often go hand in hand, but at times a claim for retaliation is stronger than one for discrimination or harassment. Often, an employee may not be able to prove that he or she was the victim of sexual harassment or racial harassment. However, when an employer takes an adverse action following allegations of such conduct, a worker can still pursue a retaliation case. Damages from retaliation can vary- if you lose your job, you may receive reinstatement and any wages you lost. If you were demoted or denied a promotion, you might get that position after all, along with any money your employer owes you. At times, a victim of harassment or retaliation may not want to or be able to return to the same workplace. In those instances, monetary compensation may suffice. You may receive money for lost wages, emotional distress and any physical injuries you have suffered.
New York State, New York City and federal laws all prohibit employment discrimination and harassment based on gender, sex, race, national origin, and several other individual characteristics. The attorneys at Leeds Brown Law, P.C. have experience handling cases under all applicable laws and can help you determine where your workplace situation falls.
If you work in the security industry, you may be vulnerable to the kind of behavior that LaDonna Powell claims to have endured. However, sexual harassment and racial harassment are not unique to this business. Do you think you are a victim of employment discrimination? Call us 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658. Leeds Brown can provide you with a free case evaluation to get you started.
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