Cecil suit asks $1 million in sex harassment case

September 27, 1990|By Michael K. Burns

Charging sexual harassment and perverted acts by her supervisor that went unchecked for more than a year, a Cecil County government secretary is suing the three county commissioners for more than $1 million in a sex discrimination case.

Margaret Jane Getty of Earleville charges in the lawsuit that the supervisor exposed his genitals to her in the office, pushed a bag of frozen french fries up her skirt in a grocery store and repeatedly made vulgar sexual remarks in the office about her and other female employees.

On one occasion, the supervisor publicly insinuated that he was paying her for sex, according to the lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The supervisor also told a crippled female employee "that he could straighten her legs by having sexual intercourse with her," while another female worker claims that the man forcibly kissed her on two occasions, the suit charges.

Repeated complaints to the commissioners about the supervisor, Allmond Perry, went unanswered, and she was denied a routine promotion and pay raises, Mrs. Getty maintains in the sex discrimination suit.

Efforts were made to fire her, and the commissioners' administrative aide suggested that she could be forced to resign as a result of her complaints, the suit alleges.

"This is an outrageous case of perverted sexual harassment that went uncorrected by the county commissioners and was apparently ratified by these men," said John S. Singleton, an attorney for Mrs. Getty. The lawyer said she would not discuss the case with reporters.

Clifton L. Buckworth, chairman of the county commissioners, said yesterday that he had been unable to do anything about the alleged misconduct of Mr. Perry because he was outvoted by the two other commissioners, who opposed disciplinary action.

"There wasn't anything I could do about it. . . . The other two [commissioners] didn't see it that way and neither did personnel [officials]," Mr. Buckworth said.

Mr. Buckworth said he took seriously the complaints Mrs. Getty made to him. "I don't like that [conduct]. I wasn't raised that way. But I'm only one of three [commissioners]."

He referred further inquiries to the county's attorney, Robert V. Jones, who did not return a reporter's call.

Mr. Perry, who has worked as a supervisor in the county maintenance department for three years, was not available to comment yesterday.

The suit states that other employees confirmed Mrs. Getty's complaints about the supervisor's behavior.

Male employees pressed the commissioners and executive staff to take action against Mr. Perry's allegedly abusive behavior and insults, without success, Mr. Singleton said.

Employees claimed that the supervisor referred to women employees as "meat," made insulting remarks about how they walked and made suggestive remarks to them about his genitals, the suit alleges.

Mr. Buckworth "laughed" at Mrs. Getty's complaints on one occasion, and the personnel director suggested that the supervisor's profanity and offensive behavior were simply "locker room humor," the suit claims.

At a meeting with Mrs. Getty and other employees in March 1989, the county commissioners said they would fire Mr. Perry, the suit alleges. But Mr. Perry remained in his job.

Mrs. Getty maintains that the county retaliated against her for complaining by keeping her in an entry-level clerical job despite adding responsibilities. Other clerical workers with the same tenure are earning $10,000 a year more than Mrs. Getty, her lawyer said.

Mrs. Getty began working for the county maintenance department in February 1988 and in September 1989, after a short maternity leave, was assigned to a new direct supervisor. But Mr. Perry still had authority to require her to work for him, the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks an injunction against further alleged sexual harassment, asks that Mrs. Getty be promoted to a suitable position, and requests compensatory and punitive damages of $1.25 million.

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