Quid pro quo suit…

…filed by ANTOINETTE MURPHY against THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES LOCAL 2250, ET AL. to be heard in January 2015

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In Latin, “quid pro quo” means “something for something.” Or in American vernacular, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

In the business world, quid pro quo, whether blatant or subtle, is a frequent occurrence. Clients may require vendors to make concessions in order to give them their business. Or, a business leader may have to give up a certain level of leadership in order to secure funding for his or her company.

But when it comes to one’s career, quid pro quo can have serious consequences, especially when it comes to the issue of sexual harassment. Moreover, it’s in clear violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the United Nations WomenWatch, quid pro quo harassment occurs “when employment and/or employment decisions for an employee are based on that employee’s acceptance or rejection of unwelcome sexual behavior.” An employee may be given a promotion if she has sexual relations with her boss; another may be fired because she refuses.

 quid pro quo Case in Prince George’s County. 

Antoinette Murphy a Plaintiff in a case filed in Federal court last year, was a bus driver for Prince George’s County public schools. She was a member of Defendant ACE – AFSCME Local 2250, of which Defendant Adams was the President. ACE- AFSCME 2250 is Plaintiff’s collective bargaining agent and is designated to file grievances on her behalf. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Bernard Palmer, an employee of the school system and Plaintiff’s supervisor, subjected Plaintiff to quid pro quo sexual harassment. Specifically, Mr. Palmer forced Plaintiff to meet with him on a daily basis throughout the course of his supervision to control and intimidate her and threatened Plaintiff with termination if she did not give in to his sexual advances. He reprimanded her and pulled her off assignments. Mr. Palmer would tell other men on the job that he wanted to have sex with Plaintiff. Plaintiff informed Mr. Faith Jones, President of AFSCME 2250, about Mr. Palmer’s behavior. On September 24, 2009, Mr. Jones told Plaintiff that “if she gave him what he wanted, then Mr. Palmer would be putty in her hands.” Mr. Jones laughed and told Plaintiff to just “give him some.” (ECF No. 2 ¶ 14; ECF No. 59-3, letter from Plaintiff to Mr. Richard Putney, AFSCME 2250’s Executive Director). That same day, Plaintiff had a meeting with Mr. Putney and Ms. Adams to discuss a variety of complaints, including her foremen not giving her proper work, her coworkers constantly lying to her, and the harassment she was experiencing. (ECF No. 59-2, at 19-20, Trans. 114:19 – 115:8, Plaintiff Dep.). Plaintiff stated that she did not characterize Mr. Palmer’s behavior as sexual, only that he constantly wanted to be with her in an abnormal manner that made her feel very uncomfortable and constituted harassment in her mind.

Mr. Putney stated that Plaintiff needed to file harassment charges and Ms. Angela Thomas (an employee of AFSCME 2250) needed to get the paperwork ready. Plaintiff was unsure exactly what the union was planning to do, however. She told Mr. Putney “to file a harassment”; she did not ask him to file a sexual harassment grievance, and Mr. Putney did not indicate he was going to file such a grievance. Plaintiff states that AFSCME 2250 would not take or file a grievance on Plaintiff’s behalf. The school system and AFSCME were in concert and the intentional discrimination resulted in many adverse employment actions against Plaintiff, including suspension without pay, verbal reprimand, consistently poor evaluations, and training that consisted of sitting in Mr. Palmer’s division all day and reading a manual. On January 12, 2010, Plaintiff, attempting to get help from her union, explained to Mr. Jones that she had been sent home unfairly by Mr. Palmer before she started her run. Mr. Jones laughed and told her that she needed to calm down. Plaintiff responded that she was tired of the constant harassment from her supervisors and that the union needed to step in and properly represent her. Mr. Jones then told Plaintiff that “I told you Palmer likes you, just give it to him and it will stop.”  Plaintiff responded that she was not kidding. Mr. Jones responded that he was not kidding. Later that day, Mr. Jones kept suggesting “that I [Plaintiff] give into Mr. Palmer and just fix him up. This will all go away.”

Plaintiff states that she would call AFSCME 2250 whenever Mr. Palmer wanted to meet with her alone. She states that Ms. Thomas and Mr. James Spears would tell her just to go ahead and meet with him alone, and whatever he gives you or whatever he tells you, then bring that back to the union and they will deal with it. (ECF No. 66-2, at 13-14, Trans. 252:13 – 253:18). At some point AFSCME 2250 informed Plaintiff that it would not file a grievance on behalf of Plaintiff in regard to Mr. Jones’s comments. Ms. Wanda Newman and Ms. Shirley Breeze, members of  the union’s executive board, were given responsibility for the matter, but told Plaintiff that they did not know how to approach this matter. >>>Read more Opinion of the Federal Judge – in regards to Ms. Antoinette Murphy – ACE AFSCME Local 2250

  OPINION

Just as damaging as quid pro quo can be to the victims themselves, it can also affect their coworkers, who may be passed over for jobs or promotions because their superiors give those positions to subordinates who respond to their advancements. In Broderick v. Ruder, an attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission charged that her superiors created an atmosphere of favoritism by promoting and rewarding those female employees who participated in sexual conduct.

Here in Prince George’s County, we have seen a variety of harassment situations involving the Union personnel,  senior managers at Sasscer, principals and Directors involved in the same throughout the district. It’s time to demand an end to this kind of situation at the job place. Discrimination such as seen at Largo and Laurel High schools, Sasscer administrative building and else where has no place in a community of civilized nations.

Quid pro quo is one of the most frequent and most damaging of sexual harassment situations in the workplace. If you feel you have been victimized by a superior’s sexual advances, it’s important to speak with an experienced employment attorney  to determine your rights and protect your career. If you cannot afford a lawyer,  file an EEOC charge and let the government agency investigate.

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Greenbelt Federal court.

In another development, former vice President for ACE-AFSCME Local 2250 Shirley Kirkland has taken over the mantle of leadership through a bloodless coup d’é tat after many years of infighting with the previous President Shirley Adams. According to our sources, AFSCME International appears to be involved in the whole saga in order to neutralize the situation and control the offices after former President Shirley Adams went international to protect democracy in Prince George’s County last year.

According to our sources within the union, Ms. Kirkland appears to be enjoying the new seat. We will keep you updated of the new developments in the near future. Of our particular concern, will be to monitor if “quid pro quo” continues within the union leadership as exhibited in the above case. As members of reform sasscer movement, we will continue to advocate for what is right. Union accountability is the key to helping transform the county if the grievance procedures have to work properly. The new management must demonstrate  true qualities of leadership if they have to create accountability on these issues without any favor.

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New President Shirley Kirkland took over recently after many years of infighting with Shirley Adams. As the new President of the Union, a lot is expected of her to iron out the issues.

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