Despite Video and #MeToo, Alleged Victim Still Feels Vulnerable
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When Hannah Frederick experienced what she described as repeated sexual harassment at work, she had to decide whether to report it or not.
Studies show most people choose not to report. But Frederick had one thing most people don’t:
Her accused harasser was caught on camera.
“I felt like it would have been a disservice to women to not bring the video forth and say,‘Look, this is really happening,’” she said.
Frederick’s attorney, Sean McCurdy, said he was shocked when he saw the footage.
“Even though I see and hear of these things regularly, very rarely does a client have such direct evidence of the discrimination occurring,” he said.
The video shows Frederick’s supervisor spanking her as the plumber’s apprentice worked on her hands and knees to turn off a water valve, then pushing her onto her back on the ground and standing over her.
Frederick was laid off from work at Murphy Company Mechanical Contractors and Engineers 39 days after requesting a new assignment away from her supervisor, according to a complaint filed in the United States District Court in Colorado. Frederick said she felt her termination was retaliation for her complaint.
“I think that what they were thinking was that they would pacify me for a period of time – put me in the shop and just make it look like, ‘Oh! We just ran out of things for you to do,’” Frederick said.
Frederick’s attorney said he reported the case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which he said recently opted out of joining the case, but granted Frederick the right to sue in Colorado.
From 2013 through the end of 2017, the EEOC received 837 reports of sexual harassment in Colorado, but a recent EEOC report found three of four people who said they experienced harassment at work never talked to a supervisor about the issue.
Frederick said she might not have come forward if she didn’t have a video recording of the incident.
In her lawsuit, Frederick alleges the incident caught on camera was one of a handful of inappropriate behaviors she suffered at the hands of her supervisor, Michael Najera. Najera told Rocky Mountain PBS that he was suspended for 10 days and required to take additional sexual harassment training.
“The way I am and the way she was, I thought she was one of the guys,” Najera told Rocky Mountain PBS. “I made a mistake … I regret what I did.”
An attorney for Murphy Company Mechanical Contractors and Engineers declined to talk about specifics related to the claims but, in an email, said the company acknowledged that “an incident” took place and that it disciplined the person responsible for the inappropriate behavior.
“Murphy supports and enforces a discrimination and harassment-free work environment for all,” said Amy Miletich, whose firm is representing the company. “As this matter is currently in litigation, we do not believe it is appropriate to comment on the specifics of the case. We are confident that the complete story and truth will be disclosed through the litigation.”
In a recent court filing, however, the company disputed that Frederick’s layoff was retaliation.
“When Murphy experienced a temporary decline in its business, typical in the construction industry, it laid off nearly one hundred employees including Ms. Frederick.” the company said in a motion to dismiss Frederick’s lawsuit.
Frederick said she hopes to shed light on issues related to harassment, but fears her lawsuit will negatively affect her career. “I love what I do,” she said. “I like the people that I work with most of the time…I don’t want them to feel like they have to walk on eggshells to be around me.”
For more information, visit rmpbs.org/insight/MeTooColorado or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.