CARIBOU, Maine — A Caribou man has filed suit against a Moses Lake, Wash. company that operates a plant in Easton, claiming he was sexually harassed by a female supervisor and then subjected to retaliation by co-workers when he complained about it.
Daniel Bouchard filed suit against Ag World Support Systems, an independent third-party inspection service for the agricultural industry, in U.S. District Court in Bangor on Oct. 8. He alleges that the company violated the Maine Human Rights Act by exposing him to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. He also claims violation of Maine’s Whistleblower’s Protection Act and violation of the Maine Human Rights Act for interfering with his right to be free from discrimination, harassment or retaliation after he filed a charge of discrimination.
Ag World Support Systems began servicing the Maine potato industry at its plant in Easton in 2008, according to its website.
According to court documents filed by his lawyer, James A. Clifford of Kennebunk, Bouchard was hired as an agricultural inspector in April 2010. He alleges that a female employee sexually harassed him several times before and after she became his shift supervisor, who was responsible for daily oversight of the employees.
Among other acts, Bouchard claims in court documents that the woman rubbed his chest with her hands, put her hands under his shirt, rubbed her chest on his back, whispered unwanted vulgar comments into his ear, propositioned him and openly talked about her sex life with him.
Clifford said that the behavior made his client feel “humiliated and degraded,” and he “became anxious and depressed and was frequently sick to his stomach before, after and while at work.”
Bouchard refused to report the conduct to the facility supervisor out of fear that the woman would retaliate against him, so his girlfriend called the facility supervisor and reported it on his behalf in October 2011. An investigation was launched, and several co-workers confirmed the harassment took place, according to court documents.
Still, Bouchard claims that no action was taken, and the female remained his supervisor until she was terminated in 2012 for unrelated reasons.
Clifford stated in court documents that no further incidents of sexual harassment took place after October 2011. Bouchard claims that he was instructed not to discuss the investigation or the harassment with anyone, or his employment would be terminated
In December 2011, Bouchard filed a charge of discrimination with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging sexual harassment and retaliation.
Bouchard alleges that the female supervisor retaliated against him for lodging the complaint by making false reports that he was smoking on company grounds in violation of company policy. He also claims in court documents that the facility supervisor allegedly began to question his work without any supporting facts or data, subjected him to an unreasonable number of “quality assurance” tests, all of which he passed, but which he felt were unnecessary and “very stressful.”
The lawsuit also states that Bouchard believes the facility supervisor subjected him to “unnecessary scrutiny with respect to use of sick days and time off.” Bouchard stated that his attendance at work had never been an issue prior to his complaint, but afterward, an occasional sick day or late arrival became a “reason to subject him to reprimands and discipline.”
He said that he was intimidated by the facility supervisor’s actions and believed that he was looking for an excuse to terminate his employment.
Clifford said that Bouchard resigned in November 2012 after becoming tired of the “retaliation and unfair treatment and plagued by uncertainty and stress.”
He was issued a right to sue letter by the Maine Human Rights Commission in August 2012. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission retained dual jurisdiction of the complaint in 2011, and they issued a right to sue letter in October 2012.
Bouchard is seeking compensatory damages, back pay, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and any further relief deemed proper by the court.
Clifford did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Ag World Support Systems could not be reached for comment.