Sex harassment charged in Prime Group lawsuit

September 14, 1994|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

A former leasing administrator for Prime Group Inc. has sued the Chicago company and the president of a Baltimore-based unit that went public in March, claiming the executive sexually harassed her before the company fired her in 1993.

Carmela Obadia, 31, of Pikesville said in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that William Carpenter, a former Prime Group executive vice president, "continually subjected plaintiff to sexually explicit profanities, as well as other crude and offensive conduct."

Prime Group has spun off its retail division to form a new company, called Prime Retail Inc. Mr. Carpenter is president of Baltimore-based Prime Retail, a factory-outlet mall developer that went public earlier this year.

Prime Group continues to hold a major stake in Prime Retail, and Prime Group Chief Executive Michael W. Reschke remains chairman of the new firm's board.

"We have not been served with anything, so we at this point have no comment," Prime Retail attorney Alan Schroeder said. He said a key issue in the case will be whether Ms. Obadia has the right to sue Prime Retail Inc., since she worked for Prime Group.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, contends that Prime Group executives failed to act on Ms. Obadia's complaints. Instead, the lawsuit says her bosses began a pattern of retaliation that ended with her firing on Feb. 3, 1993.

Ms. Obadia's attorneys contended in court papers that Mr. Carpenter's alleged conduct violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as both sexual harassment and sex discrimination.

The lawsuit said the violations created a "hostile and offensive working environment," which is the key test in sexual harassment law, breached Ms. Obadia's employment contract and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her.

Attorney Michael Gordon declined comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, which asks $300,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. He said Ms. Obadia's legal team had held unsuccessful settlement talks before filing suit.

Ms. Obadia said she was without work for nearly a year after leaving Prime Group.

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