Three former employees have sued the Comfort Inn in South Portland, alleging they were fired after reporting sexual harassment by a hotel maintenance worker.
The women allege in three separate lawsuits that they faced discrimination and were subsequently fired, all in 2011, after reporting that one of them was repeatedly sexually harassed by the male worker.
The lawsuits were filed last month in Cumberland County Superior Court by Abinair Martin of Gray, Grace Parker of Westbrook and Brenda Pippin of South Portland. The cases were moved to federal court at the request of Boulevard Motel Corp., the Maryland company that owns the South Portland Comfort Inn.
James Erwin of Pierce Atwood LLP, the attorney for Boulevard Motel Corp., said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Martin said in her lawsuit that she was working as a housekeeper at the Comfort Inn when she was subjected to daily obscene comments from the maintenance worker. In April 2010, Parker witnessed an incident during which he allegedly referred to Martin by an offensive name and asked her to lift up her shirt so he could perform a sexual act on her, according to the lawsuits.
Parker and Martin told Pippin, their supervisor, about the incident, and all three then reported the alleged harassment to the hotel’s general manager, Beth Landergren. The lawsuits allege that Landergren told the women that the maintenance worker “did not fit the profile” of a sexual harasser and that he was “kidding around.”
In the lawsuits, the women allege the maintenance worker had a history of sexually harassing women, but supervisors covered it up. The women believed Landergren was in love with the maintenance worker, according to the suits.
Martin was fired in June 2011 for insubordination, the day after she “politely interrupted a staff meeting to ask Mrs. Landergren a question about an assignment,” according to the lawsuit.
Parker’s lawsuit alleges she was closely scrutinized and was falsely accused of wrongdoing after reporting the harassment. She was fired in February 2011 for violating the hotel’s confidentiality policy. The lawsuit alleges she was discriminated against because of her age, which is now 69.
Pippin, who had worked at the hotel for 27 years, was fired in July 2011 for performance issues, gossiping and failing to stop the people she supervised from gossiping, according to the lawsuit.
All three women filed discrimination complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission and were issued “right-to-sue” letters, which stopped the commission’s investigation process. The commission did not rule on the complaints.
Parker, Martin and Pippin are seeking back wages, reinstatement to their jobs and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: