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Publix Sued Over Claims of Sexual Harassment

BARTOW, Apr 20, 2011 (The Ledger – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — A former Publix Super Markets Inc. worker is suing the company and her former boss, saying she was repeatedly sexually harassed on her deli warehouse job by supervisors and other workers.

“It was degrading,” Brandi Albin said Tuesday in an interview with The Ledger. “I just wanted to come to work and do my job, not hear crap all day.”

Albin and her lawyer, Law Office of William M. Julien, P.A. of Boca Raton, filed the lawsuit April 15 in Circuit Court in Bartow, alleging both verbal and physical sexual abuse.

Albin, 27, of Lakeland, said she worked at Publix from 2006 to 2008. She said the company encouraged workers who were sexually harassed to report it to their supervisors, but she said that when she did, she was fired.

Shannon Patten, a spokeswoman for Publix, said Tuesday that she could not comment on the lawsuit because company policy is to not comment on pending litigation.

Patten said she could not divulge whether the supervisor named in the lawsuit, Anthony Bryant, still works for Publix. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

The suit details 152 incidents it says are examples of what happened. Most of the allegations involve sexually harassing comments, and The Ledger will not publish the majority because they are so explicit. Some of the remarks the suit attributes to Publix supervisors and workers are:

  • “Let me take you to dinner and breakfast.”
  • “Wish I was in those jeans.”
  • “Flash me.”
  • “You should be a stripper.”
  • “Let’s leave and go get a room.”
  • “Wish I could see you naked.”
  • “I need a girl on the side.”
  • “My wife is out of town.”

In addition to the allegations of verbal abuse, the lawsuit charges that a supervisor would come up behind Albin and press himself against her buttocks or rub her buttocks.

The conduct against Albin “included batteries, assaults and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Julien wrote in the lawsuit.

The conduct toward Albin “was deliberate, wanton, willful, intentional and reckless and was so outrageous as to go beyond all bounds of decency and to be atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit says.

Albin said that when she started working at the deli warehouse in Lakeland, one of her tasks was to clean the men’s room. At those times, she said a sign was put on the door to caution workers not to enter. “But they did,” she said.

She said some of the verbal abuse took place in the men’s room.

The suit charges that Publix breached its duty to exercise care in disciplining employees and to investigate claims of abuse. It says “high-ranking management level and/or policy level employees” had knowledge of and participated in the discriminatory conduct directed against Albin.

It also says Publix failed to terminate managers and workers involved even when it knew about their conduct, and Albin would not have suffered injuries or would have suffered less had the violators been fired.

Julien wrote Albin has suffered and continues to suffer psychological trauma.

While working at Publix, Albin miscarried a baby. The lawsuit says Publix refused to accommodate her doctor’s work restrictions and that may have contributed to the miscarriage.

Albin told The Ledger Tuesday that she was five months pregnant when she lost the baby. She said other pregnant women at the deli warehouse were given jobs in which they could sit down.

Albin now has a 2-month-old daughter.

The suit says Albin was a good worker and charges she was fired from her job as retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment and a sexually hostile workplace.

Julien said he has filed paperwork with the Florida Commission on Human Relations charging that Albin has been mistreated because of her sex. He has also notified the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Albin said she was never eager to file a suit, which is why it took so long to do so. She said the longer she thought about it, however, the more she didn’t want that pattern of behavior to continue with other victims.

[ Rick Rousos (reporter) can be reached at [email protected] or 863-401-6968. ]

To see more of The Ledger or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.theledger.com. Copyright (c) 2011, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com.

Copyright (C) 2011, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.