An Alfred woman says she was sexually harassed and bullied by co-workers at Tom’s of Maine for years, and that her employer repeatedly dismissed her concerns and fostered a hostile work environment to the point at which she felt compelled to quit.

Sharron Desrochers filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland alleging sex discrimination, a hostile work environment, retaliation and violations of the Maine Equal Pay Law by consumer products conglomerate Colgate-Palmolive, which bought out Tom’s of Maine in 2006.

“She had spent years reporting sexual harassment, sex discrimination, unlawful gender-based pay disparities and retaliation to the defendant,” the suit says. “For years the defendant refused to act; even after investigating and substantiating her complaints.”

Melinda Caterine, an attorney at the law firm Littler Mendelson in Portland who is listed as representing Colgate-Palmolive in court filings, did not respond to a phone message at her office, and her cell phone voicemail said the mailbox was full.

An email to Caterine prompted a response that she is out of state and unable to respond immediately, and phone messages and emails to a person Caterine’s email listed as the contact for an immediate response were not returned Thursday.

James Clifford, an attorney representing Desrochers, said Thursday she was not available for an interview but issued a statement on her behalf.


“Colgate-Palmolive’s negligence and inaction permitted Sharron’s supervisor and two co-workers to sexually harass, bully, and physically assault her, some of which was even captured on video,” the statement said. “Despite Ms. Desrochers’ many complaints to management and human resources, Colgate-Palmolive failed to take any action to prevent or address known incidents of harassment and retaliation. Instead of investigating and intervening on her behalf, Colgate-Palmolive refused to transfer her to a different shift or position and away from her abusers, denied her promotions, and paid her less than it paid her male colleagues.”

Colgate-Palmolive is incorporated in Delaware with headquarters in New York and specializes in household, personal care, healthcare and veterinary products. The company also owns and does business as Tom’s of Maine, which is known for its toothpaste, deodorant and body care products, in Kennebunk and Sanford.

Colgate-Palmolive did not respond to a message submitted through the media contact form on its website. Tom’s of Maine also did not respond to an email sent to a press contact.

Desrochers first began working for Tom’s of Maine as a temporary laborer in July 2016, according to the lawsuit. The following winter, a male supervisor began making unwelcome sexual advances, which Desrochers objected to, it says. As a result, she was written up multiple times between 2017 and 2019 without basis or warning, the lawsuit says.

In May 2017, Desrochers was hired full-time as a third-shift “make technician” making deodorant and toothpaste and packaging floss at the Sanford location. In 2019, two male co-workers began sexually harassing and bullying her, including by making derogatory and sexually charged comments, which Desrochers reported to her supervisors, plant manager and human resources, the lawsuit alleges.

Desrochers also complained about male technicians earning as much as $2 to $4 per hour more than she did for the same work and said she was reprimanded or disciplined for errors while mistakes made by men were minimized or forgotten.


She asked to be transferred to a new position or shift on several occasions because of the behavior of and sex-based discrimination by her two co-workers but was denied, the lawsuit says. Finally, in the winter of 2020, Colgate-Palmolive human resources began investigating Desrochers’ complaints about harassment and gender discrimination, it says. The investigation verified the complaints against the two co-workers after interviews with several witnesses, but the company still took no remedial action, the lawsuit says.

Then, five months after the report, in September 2020, one of the two co-workers Desrochers said had been harassing her hit her on the back of the head, according to the lawsuit. He later shoved and tripped her, it says. A security guard told Desrochers the incidents were captured on video. The same day, she felt compelled to submit her two-week notice, the suit says.

Attempts to reach the supervisor and two male co-workers were unsuccessful Thursday.

The lawsuit seeks back pay and lost income from Oct. 2, 2020, to the present; the difference between what Desrochers was paid and what her male colleagues made between April 2017 and Oct. 2020; compensatory damages not to exceed $500,000; coverage of attorney fees and costs; and any other damages as may be determined by a jury.

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