Jamie Marks, of Leeds, Alabama, said Chris Hargrove repeatedly propositioned her for sex or inappropriately touched her. On one occasion, Hargrove masturbated in front of her. Marks' complaints, however, fell on deaf ears.
How clueless can management be these days? The answer, based on the Jamie Marks case and my own experience, is "very."
Consider my experience at UAB, which I've written about extensively. I had known my supervisor, Pam Powell, for pretty much the entire 19 years I was at UAB and worked successfully under her for 12 years. But in the early to middle part of 2007, Powell informed our staff that she planned to recommend a coworker with about 20 years less experience than me as her replacement when she retired in two or three years. (The young coworker also had about 20 years less experience than one of my female colleagues.)
When I turned in a vacation-request form, it was a problem. My daily timekeeping wasn't up to snuff. Projects I had successfully managed for years became a concern.
Powell finally violated UAB policy by giving me a written warning, and that's when figured I had to do something. I asked for a meeting with Powell's superior, Dale Turnbough, who clearly had no clue about Powell's plans for the future of our office. I told Turnbough that I wasn't concerned about what might happen down the road, but I was concerned that I was facing harassment and discrimination based on my age right then.
Turnbough assured me she would take care of the problem and even encouraged me to go through the formal HR grievance process. Roughly three weeks later, in about as obvious a case of retaliation as you can imagine, Turnbough handed me my termination letter.
Now consider the Jamie Marks case. Alicia Haynes, Marks' attorney, says 15 other women have been identified as victims of sexual harassment at the company. Another lawsuit is pending in Birmingham federal court with six plaintiffs.
"There was a level of arrogance on the part of the company," Haynes said. "They weren't going to do anything about (Hargrove)."
Instead, the company tried to discredit the women who came forward. Apparently, that strategy failed big time at trial.
A level of arrogance? I would say that's an excellent way to describe the "management" at UAB. Time will tell if the university, funded largely by state and federal taxpayer dollars, will be held accountable in my case and several others that are pending.
The Jamie Marks verdict should give clueless managers something to think about. But who knows if they are smart enough to pay attention?