Rockport woman claims retaliation for reporting sexual harassment
Augusta — The Maine Human Rights Commission found reasonable grounds earlier this month to determine a supervisor of a complainant created a hostile work environment by constantly discussing sex.
Catherine Colombo of Rockport, filed a complaint with the state commission in April 2013, claiming her supervisor at Glenmoor by the Sea in Lincolnville subjected her to sexual harassment from August 2011 to July 2012, and then terminated her position after she complained about the situation, said an investigative report by Michele Dion.
In finding reasonable grounds to establish the allegations as truthful, the commission, which is the agency tasked with fighting discrimination in the state, determines Colombo could prevail against the defendant in a civil action.
Down East Hospitality Partners I, LLC, doing business as Glenmoor by the Sea, asserted the Colombo was fired for reasons related to business and the owner losing faith in her ability to act in the best interest of the company, said the investigator's report.
"At no time did the owner initiate sexual innuendos, sexual comments, or statements of any type which could be considered offensive in nature," said the hotel in response.
Colombo said in the report she worked as a seasonal employee and said her supervisor — one of two owners of the hotel — immediately began describing sexual relationships with various men and showing her graphic sexual photographs.
The complainant said she attempted to walk away from the conversations, but the supervisor would follow her and continue to talk about sexual subjects.
It was also stated the supervisor had sexual relationships with men who stayed at the hotel who then performed work for free on the hotel. Other employees began to speak up about being uncomfortable with the same issues regarding discussions about sex and the owner's behavior with some guests.
Colombo made a report to the commission, and then said she believed the owner discovered she made a complaint because another employee informed the owner. She said she was called at home by the owner, who was upset she had called the other owner of the hotel, who lives in Boston, and complained about the behavior.
The out-of-state owner initially said the situation sounded like school-girls fighting and the harassment continued unabated, said the report.
The day after she was confronted by the owner, the complainant was fired via email.
The Boston-area owner reinstated the complainant's employment, but placed her on administrative leave pending an investigation. She was later fired again because, as a letter from the hotel's attorney stated, she had posted bad reviews on the website Trip Advisor about the hotel, said the report.
The complainant denied posting the reviews, and contended she was terminated for reporting the sexual harassment and complaining to management about the owner's dog being in the kitchen, said the report.
The commission did not find grounds to believe the complainant was also fired for reporting to the Department of Health and Human Services that the dog was in the kitchen.
Another employee who corroborated Colombo's claims also was fired. That employee moved back to Florida because she said the owner would make trouble for her if she worked in Maine, said the report.
While the complainant worked for the hotel, there were no personnel policies and no sexual harassment training, therefore, the hotel did not take appropriate action to avoid harassment in its workplace, said the report.
The commission is expected vote on the case July 14.
Colombo is represented by attorney Frank McGuire and the hotel is represented by attorney Kenneth Pierce.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.