AUGUSTA, Maine — A Portland municipal solid waste worker claimed his female supervisor sexually harassed him by doodling a crude male organ on the back of his employee self-evaluation, among other acts, according to a complaint filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission.
David Tanguay of Falmouth is alleging that he was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment by his boss, and that the city of Portland did not take prompt or appropriate action to stop it. A Maine Human Rights Commission investigator recommends commissioners find his claim has reasonable grounds when the panel meets on Jan. 27.
But the city of Portland alleges that the supervisor’s behavior did not rise to the level of harassment. The female supervisor, who is not named in the investigator’s report, was counseled, and her boss gave a talk to all employees about harassment not being tolerated, investigator Barbara Lelli wrote.
In his complaint, Tanguay claimed his boss did things that made him uncomfortable, including calling him and other male employees ‘babe’ and ‘darling.’ But the event that triggered his filing of a complaint against her with the city’s human resources department happened on Dec. 15, 2011, after she passed around annual evaluations to her employees, according to Lelli’s report. The supervisor put her hand on Tanguay’s shoulder when she gave him his evaluation, saying in front of everyone that ‘some of these are worse than others.’
“She told him to relax and that she would hear him out later if he had anything to complain about,” the report stated.
At the end of the day, the solid waste supervisor told Tanguay that he could fill out a self-evaluation, and she gave him a form with his name and information typed on it.
“When Mr. Tanguay turned over the self-evaluation form, he saw what looked like a penis drawn on the back,” the report stated. “He asked [his] solid waste supervisor what it was, and she said she could have been doodling.”
Tanguay, upset, showed the picture to many people to get their opinion of what it was.
“Everyone that he asked thought it looked like a penis,” the report stated. “Mr. Tanguay felt that it was a childish, gross thing for [his supervisor] to do and borderline sexual harassment.”
He took a picture of the drawing with his cellphone before giving the self-evaluation back to his supervisor, then asked for copies of both evaluations, telling her he was going to file a complaint, Lelli wrote in the report. He filed that complaint on Feb. 1, 2012, and shortly afterward, he opened his locker at work and found two pornographic DVDs with notes taped on them. One said that he was ‘a fag.’ The other said, ‘Leave [solid waste supervisor] alone or else die.’ Photos of both notes, as well as the doodle, were included in Lelli’s report.
According to Lelli, it was not clear if the supervisor or another city employee who supported her put the pornographic DVDs in Tanguay’s locker.
“Mr. Tanguay reported this further harassment and threat to a different supervisor, who asked, ‘Can’t we just get along?’” the report stated.
In response to Tanguay’s allegations, the city of Portland responded by conducting an investigation, including a review of his self-evaluation. The document turned in by Tanguay’s boss appeared to be a copy and showed no doodling.
According to the city, the supervisor “adamantly denied” drawing anything on the back of Tanguay’s self-evaluation, didn’t recall putting her hand on his shoulder and admitted to a habit of calling people pet names. She also said she had no knowledge of the pornographic tapes and told the city’s investigator that she felt mistreated by Tanguay, the report included.
According to the Maine Human Rights Act, harassment on the basis of sex is illegal, including verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when it creates an intimidating or hostile workplace environment.
Lelli found in her report that the investigative and corrective actions taken by the city of Portland were inadequate and didn’t correct the effects of the harassment on Tanguay.
“The claim of hostile work environment based on sex is founded,” she wrote.