Webbert says, “information collected since the suit was filed strengthens the case against the town and school department.”

Read the entire store here at the Bangor Daily News.

Settlement hearing set for suit over alleged assaults in Brunswick school

The next phase of a lengthy legal dispute between the Brunswick school system and the family of a former student who allegedly was sexually and physically assaulted at Brunswick Junior High School will likely play out on Aug. 18 in federal court.

The family of the former student, identified as Jack Doe, and the Maine Human Rights Commission filed a lawsuit in federal court charging the town, school department and junior high principal with violating his civil rights. In addition to alleging that the former student was sexually and physically assaulted, the lawsuit claims he was discriminated against based on his gender and sexual orientation while attending the school from 2010 to 2012.

The suit, filed in July 2015, names the Brunswick School Department, town of Brunswick and Brunswick Junior High School Principal Walter Wallace as defendants. It charges that Wallace acted “with actual malice and reckless indifference to federally protected rights of Jane Doe and her child” and failed to adequately respond to the student’s repeated complaints and charges of assault, discrimination and bullying.

The suit alleges that over a period of 2½ years “a group of sexually aggressive and violent male students” harassed the student, called him “gay,” subjected him to several “gay tests,” struck him with a lacrosse stick, stabbed him with a pencil and on three separate occasions sexually assaulted him, then threatened him and his family if he told anyone about the assaults.

An attorney representing the family said by phone this week that information collected since the suit was filed strengthens the case against the town and school department.

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In June 2014, the Maine Human Rights Commission voted to uphold its investigator’s report substantiating the complaints and subsequently joined the suit as a plaintiff “to ensure that Brunswick has in place effective measures to prevent a hostile education environment based on sex and sexual orientation,” according to court documents.

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Many case documents have been sealed after both parties in December 2015 signed a confidentiality agreement.

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Webbert wrote that Wallace allegedly told Jack Doe’s father when he was in seventh grade that junior high kids “are like a wolfpack and they tend to pick on the weak, and I think this is what’s going on with your kid, and maybe you should ask him to tone down his individuality a little bit.”

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Webbert wrote that Wallace’s “minimal and belated” responses “were clearly unreasonable in the face of numerous reports of longtime and escalating verbal harassment and physical abuse of Jack by multiple male students,” including being made fun of for being gay more than 30 different times, hit and stuck with a push pin.

Webbert said Wallace admitted in a deposition before the human rights commission that the school’s response to the push pin incident was “in violation of the procedure” for bullying incidents and said Superintendent Paul Perzanoski admitted at his deposition that a written report should have been created.

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Webbert said Jack Doe was still enrolled at the school and attending classes “sporadically” when he made the allegations in October 2012 and was subsequently tutored at home.

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“We think this case is so strong for us on certain issues, and it’s gotten stronger,” Webbert said.

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A mediator will join Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison and attorneys for the two parties at the Aug. 18 conference, Webbert said.

Represented by Allison Gray, Waterville woman sues T-Mobile alleging sexual harassment

Read the entire article here at the Portland Press Herald.

Former employee Angela Agganis says she was touched inappropriately by a call center supervisor.

Angela Agganis of Waterville filed a complaint Oct. 9 in U.S. District Court in Portland, accusing the company of subjecting her to a hostile work environment based on her sex. She is represented by Allison Gray, a civil rights attorney with Johnson, Webbert and Young in Augusta.

Allison Gray, “A lawsuit will be filed against T-Mobile.”

Read the full article here at the Morning Sentinel

Agganis press conferenceFormer T-Mobile employee to sue over harassment at Oakland call center

Angela Agganis was asked to sign a gag order after she complained to human resources about sexual harassment from a superior, and labor groups say T-Mobile has a practice of ‘muzzling’ employees.

OAKLAND — A former T-Mobile employee who was prohibited from discussing a sexual harassment complaint she made against a superior plans to sue the company in federal court, and labor activists are using her case to call attention to company practice that “muzzles” employees who speak out about working conditions.

At a Tuesday morning news conference near the entrance of the company’s Oakland call center, Angela Agganis, of Waterville, said she worked for the company for nearly eight years and endured repeated sexual harassment from a male superior, including inappropriate touching.

When Agganis complained to human resources about the harassment in August 2014, she was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting her from discussing the investigation with anyone and was told that if she didn’t comply with the terms of the gag order, she could be fired.

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Agganis said she signed the agreement but then immediately resigned.

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“People are scared to get fired here,” she told reporters following the event. “I just got to a point where I was more angry than scared.”

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“When people are harassed at work, especially when they are sexually harassed at work, they have a right to speak out without intimidation,” Dubnau said.

Before she complained to human resources, Agganis said, she did some research and found out that her superior had a track record of harassment.

“I began to have panic attacks. I said enough was enough,” she said.

Agganis said she asked that her superior be suspended during the internal investigation, but he was not. She quit her job because she didn’t feel safe with him in the building, she said.

Many of the call center workers are young women, and she thought she needed to make her story public to help protect other women from being harassed.

“I just really want all these people to be safe,” Agganis said.

Allison Gray, an employment and civil rights attorney from the Augusta law firm Johnson Webbert and Young, said Agganis filed a complaint in January with the Maine Human Rights Commission and requested and received a right to sue. A lawsuit will be filed against T-Mobile in Maine federal district court later this week, she said.

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In August, a judge from the National Labor Relations Board ruled that T-Mobile had violated U.S. labor law in North Carolina and Oakland when it had employees sign confidentiality agreements after opening internal investigations. The ruling required T-Mobile to rescind its policy and inform workers it had violated labor laws.

In March, another NLRB judge ruled that T-Mobile had committed 11 separate violations of labor law at locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wichita, Kansas, Charleston, South Carolina, and New York City. In that ruling, the judge found that the company’s confidentiality requirements, including gag orders during internal investigations, violated workers’ right to talk openly about issues in the workplace.

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Arbitrate This! Arbitration Agreements Strip Employees of Their Rights

Read it here.

I’ve never shopped at American Apparel before, but my daughters do. It’s an American success story. When I went to the company’s website, I found out that in less than 20 years, American Apparel went from a start up to employing over 10,000 workers in 285 stores in more than 20 countries around the globe.

The company says all the right things. That it makes and designs much of its clothing here in the good old US of A. That it offers paid health care to its employees. That it pays its workers in Bangladesh 50 times more than the competition (still only $600 annually). That American Apparel is sweatshop free.

American Apparel has a popular outlet in Freeport that sells (at least so far as this old fogey is concerned) tight, revealing clothing which is more appropriate for the bedroom than the classroom. When I Googled American Apparel, I found it competes with Urban Outfitters, H&M, Topshop, and Forever 21—all stores for urban hipsters and wannabes. I guess you could say that sex sells.

You could also say that sexual harassment in the workplace is verboten. Particularly in a large corporation like American Apparel. But apparently, that is not the case. Rather, American Apparel’s founder, Dov Charney, treated his female employees like his own personal playthings.

For years it was known that Charney liked to push boundaries, having oral sex and masturbating in front of a reporter and sleeping with and photographing his female employees. What wasn’t so well known was that Charney wasn’t just a bad boy in public, but that a number of women had brought claims of sexual harassment against him and the company.

How was American Apparel able to keep these multiple claims of sexual harassment quiet? By requiring that its employees arbitrate any claims of discrimination rather than go to court. Unlike a court case, where the documents are part of the public record available for anyone to see, arbitration filings and awards generally are confidential. As a recent story in the New York Times documents, increasingly American corporations are requiring their employees to arbitrate any and all disputes.

Not surprisingly, where there is smoke there is fire. It turns out that there were at least five claims of sexual harassment against Charney and American Apparel, including by one woman who claimed Charney had made her his “sex slave.” Charney’s exploits weren’t exposed (pun intended) until several of the women challenged the arbitration clause in court.

American Apparel’s Board of Directors recently removed Charney as the company’s CEO. Sadly, it appears that his removal was driven not so much by his mistreatment of female employees, but rather because the company was losing money hand over fist.  For the first time ever, a female director was added to the company’s board.

Adding a woman as a director at American Apparel could be a good first step—or it might just be window dressing. What really needs to be done is to restore employees’ rights to bring their disputes to court in the light of day rather than air their dirty laundry in private arbitration. Until we end forced arbitration, employees and investors alike will continue to effectively be stripped of their rights and left naked. Just how Dov Charney and American Apparel like it.

Correction:  American Apparel does not have an outlet in Freeport.  My daughters do like to shop at their outlets elsewhere.