Security Company Violated Law by Firing Worker

R.I. commission finds in favor of security officer who was fired after being sexually harassed


Dec. 7--PROVIDENCE -- The state Commission for Human Rights has ruled that a local security company broke the State Fair Employment Practices Act by firing a security guard who complained about being subjected to verbal abuse on the job in 2001.

The commission ordered Blackstone Valley Security, part of Facility Services Management Inc., of Cranston, and its president, Robert E. Sherman, to offer Amy L. Manfred another job, to "desist from all unlawful employment practices" and to train its supervisors on laws against discrimination and retaliation.

The commission also said it will schedule a hearing to decide whether to award back pay, back benefits or compensatory damages to Manfred. Cynthia Hiatt, the commission's legal counsel, said previous damage awards have ranged as high as $80,000.

Sherman would not discuss the case yesterday, referring questions to his lawyer, who could not be reached. Manfred's lawyer, Christopher Corbett, said that he hadn't talked to his client yet, but that it was "a nice victory."

Manfred was fired shortly before Christmas 2001, while she was working as a guard at Newport Hospital, which had hired Blackstone Valley Security.

The commission found that Manfred, a lesbian, had been increasingly subjected to offensive and derogatory remarks by other employees, several of which its ruling quoted, involving sex and her sexual orientation. When she complained to a supervisor, she was told that "it would be easier to 'get rid' of her" than to replace one of the other guards who was verbally abusing her.

"There was no indication that the respondent [the company] investigated the complainant's allegations of harassment," the commission decision said.

The commission found that she did not prove that Blackstone Valley Security discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation. But it said that she did prove that the company discriminated against her by terminating her for objecting to unlawful employment practices.

In fact, the commission said, the company's written policy required employees to report any acts of harassment to a supervisor, which Manfred did by standing up at a staff meeting and objecting. The company, however, responded by suspending her without pay for several days and then firing her, the commission found.

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