Searsport lesbian couple alleges discrimination by Bank of America, cleaning company

Posted April 04, 2012, at 7:29 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Two women from Waldo County who say they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation are suing Bank of America and a New York-based cleaning company in U.S. District Court.

Shelly Flood of Searsport started working at Bank of America in Belfast in 2006, and she received bonuses and positive evaluations until four years later, when her supervisor learned that she was a lesbian, according to the lawsuit.

“The supervisor’s treatment of Shelly Flood changed suddenly and dramatically from cordial to hostile,” states the complaint, which was filed on March 29 in U.S. District Court in Bangor. “The bank then singled out Shelly Flood for adverse treatment and adverse employment actions and began laying the groundwork for her termination because of her sexual orientation.”

Meanwhile, her partner, Keri Flood of Searsport, had worked beginning in 2008 cleaning the bank as an employee of ABM Janitorial Services-Northeast Inc. The complaint stated that until September 2010, Keri Flood received recommendations for her work and “consistently positive” feedback. But that changed when the cleaning company learned from Bank of America that Keri Flood was in a relationship with Shelly Flood, according to the lawsuit.

“ABM singled out Keri Flood for adverse employment actions and, on or about October 7, 2010, ABM terminated her employment because of her sexual orientation,” the complaint states.

Keri Flood also alleges that someone from Bank of America told her employers at the beginning of October that she had assaulted a bank employee, which was a false statement, according to the complaint.

“Said misrepresentations were made with the knowledge of their falsity or in reckless disregard of whether they were true or false,” the complaint says. “The Bank, either by fraud or intimidation, induced ABM to terminate Keri Flood’s employment.”

Bank of America issued a statement Wednesday saying, “We are reviewing the complaint but believe the allegations are without merit. Bank of America is committed to maintaining a workplace free of discrimination and harassment, a workplace where differences — in thought, style, culture, ethnicity and experience, including sexual orientation — help to make us stronger as a company.”

Tony Mitchell of ABM issued a statement saying that his company encourages and expects a positive work environment that is free from any type of unlawful discrimination or harassment.

“ABM’s policies and code of conduct prohibit discrimination and harassment against any employee, including on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said. “In this matter, we have found no evidence that anything unlawful took place.”

Bank of America and ABM Janitorial Services-Northeast, Inc. have until next week to respond to the complaint, which was filed by the plaintiffs’ attorney Marshall Tinkle of Portland.

Efforts on Wednesday to speak with Tinkle were unsuccessful.

According to the complaint, Shelly Flood informed the bank of the alleged unlawful discrimination but despite her efforts the bank ended her employment there on Oct. 1, 2010.

“The bank engaged in discriminatory practices with malice or with reckless indifference to the rights of Shelly Flood to be free from unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace,” the complaint stated.

Keri and Shelly Flood each filed a discrimination charge with the Maine Human Rights Commission, which sent them right-to-sue letters on Nov. 29, 2011. Such letters typically are requested of and issued by the commission if it has not been able to investigate a complaint within 180 days of one being filed.

According to the complaint, Keri and Shelly Flood each are asking the court for her job to be reinstated, for back pay, for compensatory, punitive and civil penal damages and for attorneys’ fees.

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