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Riggan Law Firm Files Lawsuit Against Missouri American Water Company for Gender Harassment and Retaliation

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On July 27, 2015, Riggan Law Firm, LLC, an employment law firm located in St. Louis, Missouri, filed a gender harassment and retaliation lawsuit on behalf of its client, Marlene Schmittling-Nolan, against Missouri American Water Company, which is local water and wastewater company that supplies water and water treatment to local communities within St. Louis County, among other areas.

According to the lawsuit, Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan by the Defendant from November 2003 to October 2013. For the vast majority of her employment, she worked as a Utility Operator and Basin Operator. Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan alleges in the lawsuit that she worked a physical and labor-intensive job with the Defendant for many years, and as a woman working in what was perceived by Defendant’s employees to be a “man’s job,” she was subjected to abhorrent and reprehensible conduct by Defendant and its employees. Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan alleges that she made numerous complaints about the hostile work environment, only to experience further unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The suit alleges that the conduct of Defendant and its employees culminated in Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan’s constructive discharge.

The suit alleges that Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan was part of a workforce composed predominantly of male employees, and that she was subjected to negative treatment, ignored, ostracized, criticized, and ridiculed because of her gender. Some examples of alleged harassment include:

  • a male co-worker calling her a “stupid fucking cunt”;
  • male employees stating to each other (in her presence) “come over here and suck my dick”;
  • a male co-worker calling her a “fucking amateur”
  • male employees bending each other over at the waist and pretending to have anal intercourse with each other;
  • a male co-worker telling her, “We don’t need no womenzzz in here. Theyzz stupid”;
  • a male co-worker calling her a “stupid fucking retard”;
  • male employees engaging in foul language;
  • male employees criticizing her and her job performance;
  • male employees engaging in discussions about sex;
  • male employees engaging in discussions that were degrading to women; and
  • a male co-worker told Plaintiff to shave her “mustache” and stated that his wife “gets that hairy shit waxed” and takes care of herself.

The suit also alleges that Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan worked at a location where there were separate locker room/restroom facilities for men and women (marked accordingly with signage), and that she was the only female employee at that location. According to the suit, male employees constantly used the women’s restroom (over her objection), would often say “It’s time to go in and stink up Marlene’s bathroom,” and also frequently and purposefully made messes that she had to clean up, such as urinating on the toilet/seat, defecating on the toilet, and smearing feces on the toilet/seat. She also alleges that male employees changed the sign on the women’s restroom to read “handicapped/co-ed.”

Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan alleges that she made multiple complaints to supervisors and human resources about the ongoing gender harassment, and that in response, Defendant failed to properly investigate her complaints, failed to make appropriate findings, failed to take appropriate corrective action, continued to tolerate a hostile work environment, and subjected her to unlawful retaliation. Examples of alleged harassment/retaliation following her complaints included:

  • she was falsely accused of and ultimately disciplined for making “inappropriate remarks about her male supervisor;
  • male employees continued to use the women’s restroom, and in doing so, failed to lower the toilet seat and urinated and defecated on the stool of the toilet;
  • she was offended by a magazine displayed by male employees that depicted half-naked women in degrading apparel sprawled in sexually provocative poses;
  • male employees criticized her and her work performance;
  • one male employee said to another male employee about her, “Get outta here and take that bitch with you”;
  • a sign put in place by management prohibiting men from using the women’s restroom was removed;
  • the poster in the lunchroom stating that “sexual harassment is illegal” was altered to read “sexual harassment is legal”);
  • a male employee stated in her presence, “Stupid fucking women getting ideas from fucking Better Homes & Gardens”;
  • male employees ignored and ostracized her;
  • her supervisor constantly watched/stalked her and unfairly criticized her and her work performance, for no legitimate reason;
  • her supervisor screamed at her, for no legitimate reason;
  • her supervisor criticized her for going to the restroom and for being in the restroom too long;
  • she was required to report to the lunchroom every morning and sit/wait for a work assignment, whereas male employees were not subjected to the same treatment; and
  • she was assigned more difficult/challenging jobs than her male co-workers, including some jobs that had not been performed in years, and male employees laughed when she was required to perform said jobs.

The lawsuit alleges that in response to many complaints she made to Defendant’s management over a period of months/years, Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan’s male supervisor was repeatedly rude to her, called her a “whiner,” and told her to “shut up.”

The suit alleges that in her last day of working for Defendant, she went to the lunchroom at her work location, and at her usual seat at the lunch table, she found a note—handwritten on a paper towel and taped to the table at her seat location—that read as follows: “WHINERS ARE NOT Permitted USE OF THIS TABLE. LIKEWISE, NON-WHINERS ARE NOT PERMITTED USE OF TABLES WHICH ARE OCCUPIED BY WHINERS. DO NOT REMOVE THIS SIGN! The Management.” Accordingly to the lawsuit, she immediately complained to a supervisor about the note, but Defendant ultimately took no corrective action.

Mrs. Schmittling-Nolan alleges in the lawsuit that she was constructively discharged by virtue of Defendant failing to prevent and correct the hostile work environment and by virtue of the ongoing retaliation for her numerous complaints. In the lawsuit, she seeks recovery of compensatory damages, back pay, front pay, lost benefits, damages for emotional distress, humiliation, and diminished employment status, as well as punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs.

To read a copy of the lawsuit, click here.

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