Columbia Mall accused of sex discrimination

March 15, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a sex discrimination suit against the Columbia Mall on behalf of a Columbia woman who was fired from her job as a security guard after being accused of sexually harassing a male co-worker.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, charges that Chermayne Jones was dismissed from her position at the mall in October 1992 for alleged sexual harassment, but that a "similarly situated male employee was not discharged, but only reprimanded for alleged sexual harassment of [Ms. Jones]."

The commission charges that mall management fired Ms. Jones because she is a woman.

The suit does not ask for a specific amount of money in damages but seeks an injunction barring the mall from further gender discrimination. The suit also seeks back pay, reinstatement and a monetary award -- to be determined by the court -- for damages, including emotional pain, suffering, stress and loss of employment benefits such as health and life insurance.

Sonya Sanders, manager of sales and marketing, said she could not comment on the case until an attorney for the Rouse Co.-owned mall had had a chance to review the lawsuit.

Ms. Jones' attorney, Leslie Hayes Russo, said that in 1992, her client reported to her superiors that a co-worker had "tried to get her to give him a hug, tried to get her to go out," Ms. Russo said.

She also claimed that at one point, the man attempted to touch her breasts, Ms. Russo said.

"The bottom line is that they took his word, based on the fact that there were no prior charges against him," Ms. Russo said.

Six months later, in September 1992, another co-worker made a complaint against Ms. Jones, charging, among other things, that she she had touched his groin and opened his pants, Ms. Russo said. She added that Ms. Jones had recently reported the man for leaving his post when he was supposed to be working.

Regina M. Andrew, the EEOC attorney handling the case, said the commission decided to file a suit after comparing the mall's treatment of the two harassment complaints.

"They did an internal, in-house investigation in both cases," Ms. Andrew said.

When Ms. Jones was accused, "she wasn't warned, she wasn't suspended, she was just outright discharged -- 'You're out.' "

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