Fort Worth bus driver accuses employer of allowing sexual harassment
03/17/2014 5:52 PM
03/17/2014 5:54 PM
A Fort Worth Transportation Authority bus driver is accusing her employer of allowing sexual harassment and intimidation after reporting that she was being constantly wooed by another female driver to enter into a sexual relationship.
Twynette Solomon, who works for McDonald Transit, the company that provides drivers, dispatchers and other employees for the authority, filed two lawsuits last week that also allege that sexual harassment is pervasive among managers at the transit agency and that she was retaliated against when she reported the incidents to her supervisors.
Wes Dauphinot, an attorney representing Solomon and another bus driver suing McDonald Transit and the transportation authority, also known as the T, contends that the two agencies don’t take complaints about sexual harassment seriously.
“We think that McDonald transit has a problem with sexual harassment. They don’t [do] adequate investigations; they don’t protect female employees who are living in fear,” Dauphinot said.
Dauphinot added that Solomon has reached the point that she is not afraid to speak out against harassment in the workplace.
Robert Babbitt, president of Fort Worth-based McDonald Transit, said he is aware of Solomon’s suit but could not comment on specifics.
“We’ve investigated this [Solomon’s allegations] and have taken actions that our policies call for,” Babbitt said, although he wouldn’t elaborate. “In each of our 32 locations, we have robust processes to eliminate discrimination. We’ve got what I think is easily seen as the best representation in that regard.”
Interim T President Tony Johnson said he could not comment about Solomon’s case but said that anytime a complaint is filed against another employee the company is obligated to investigate it.
“If I thought for a minute that one of my managers was sexually harassing somebody, he wouldn’t be working here,” Johnson said.
Solomon said she decided to sue her employer because she wanted to help other employees who were afraid to come forward. Solomon, a single mother of five, said that it is difficult to deal with the stressful working conditions but that she no longer feels afraid of what would happen to her.
“You have a right and a voice to overcome harassment and retaliation and to speak up for what’s true,” Solomon said.
‘Let it roll off your back’
Solomon, 42, alleges that early in 2012 another bus driver, Tanya Crittle, repeatedly harassed her, winked at her, grabbed her hand and told her she wanted a lesbian relationship. Crittle allegedly told her “I want you as my lover” and to “be her woman.”
The suit says Solomon asked Crittle to stop, but the harassment continued, even after Solomon reported the incidents to her supervisor, James Whitehead.
Whitehead told Solomon, who has worked for McDonald Transit since 2011, to “let it roll off your back,” and said the woman “may just go away,” the lawsuit says. It became clear Whitehead never talked to human resources from January to May 2012, it says.
Eventually, Solomon went to human resources on her own and an investigator who works for McDonald Transit said she could not prove or disprove that the harassment occurred.
According to McDonald Transit officials, Crittle left for another job in September 2012. Crittle told the Star-Telegram that sexual harassment isn’t in her blood and that Solomon is lying.
“I don’t have the history or personality to harass anyone. This is a big lie,” Crittle said of the accusations against her.
When Solomon felt that her allegations were not being handled by McDonald Transit she filed three complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and obtained a right-to-sue letter.
As a result, Solomon filed the two suits. One deals with the sexual harassment claim. The other deals with what Solomon says happened to her after she brought her concerns to management.
Documents in Solomon’s lawsuits describe her being called into numerous meetings with supervisors because of customer complaints and how she apparently swore at a co-worker. Crittle and some of her friends apparently filed the complaint, according to the suit.
Solomon told the Star-Telegram that Crittle concocted “malicious” complaints because she was angry about being rejected.
Solomon’s job difficulties continued through 2012 and 2013, and the lawsuit described complaints about her job performance. In December 2012, Solomon was called a meeting and was given four disciplinary notices including a “job in jeopardy” warning, the suit says. It says receiving the warnings on the same day contradicts the company’s “progressive discipline” policy.
In May 2013, Solomon was told that she had to attend a meeting with Cantey Hanger attorney Jennifer Sweeney, who was representing McDonald Transit, who wanted to ask her about the Cora Hunter case, the lawsuit says.
Hunter filed a sexual harassment suit against the company and the T after she was fired in 2010. Hunter’s lawsuit alleges that T executive Al Johnson sexually harassed her. When Solomon mentioned that Al Johnson had also sexually harassed her, the meeting abruptly ended, Solomon’s suit says.
Hunter’s case is pending. Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.
On June 4, Solomon was fired but was rehired in July after filing a grievance. But she took two months off to deal with job-related stress, the lawsuit states.
In October 2013 — her first day back on the job — Solomon said, she was called into a meeting with a representative from the Teamsters Union and another Cantey Hanger attorney, Brad Dowell, who also represents McDonald Transit.
Solomon’s lawsuits accuse Dowell of “bullying” and intimidating her by asking her to tell him what she was going to say as a witness in the Hunter lawsuit. Solomon’s lawsuits also mention that Al Johnson sexually harassed her.
Solomon said that she and Hunter don’t know each other, but that Solomon contacted Dauphinot and told him she had information that could be helpful in Hunter’s harassment case.
When asked to comment on Solomon’s allegations, Dowell wrote in an email, “It is firm policy not to comment on pending matters.”
Solomon is still employed by McDonald Transit and drives on a part-time basis.
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