Former workers sue South Portland hotel alleging they were fired for reporting sexual harassment

Posted April 28, 2014, at 6:36 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Three former female employees have sued the Comfort Inn in South Portland alleging they were fired after reporting to the manager on-going sexual harassment by a maintenance worker.

The three separate lawsuits, originally filed last month in Cumberland County Superior Court, were moved last week by the hotel’s parent company, Boulevard Motel Corp., to federal court in Portland.

James Erwin, the Portland attorney representing the hotel, declined Monday in an email to comment on the case. He has not yet filed answers in the suits.

Grace L. Parker of Westbrook and Abinair A. Martin of Gray worked in housekeeping at the inn near the Maine Mall, according to the complaints dated March. 21. Brenda Pepin of South Portland was their supervisor.

All three women are represented by attorney James Clifford of Kennebunk.

On April 24, 2010, Parker and Martin asked to speak with Pepin “about numerous incidents of sexual harassment committed by the hotel’s maintenance man against Ms. Martin,” the complaints said. “Ms. Parker witnessed the harassment.”

Three days later, the women met with general manager Beth Landergren, according to the complaints. Landergren’s response “was that the maintenance man ‘did not fit the profile’ of a sexual harasser and that he was just ‘kidding around.’” The plaintiffs also alleged that “Landergren was in love with the maintenance man and would do anything for him.”

Parker, 69, was fired in February 2011 after 10 years on the job for purportedly violating the hotel’s confidentiality policies, which she denied. Martin was fired in June 2011 after working at the hotel for more than five years for alleged insubordination. Pepin, who worked at the Comfort Inn for 27 years, was fired in July 2011 for gossiping, which she denied.

All three women are seeking back wages, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and reinstatement. Parker also has alleged age discrimination. Martin, who is black, has alleged racial discrimination.

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