The Madison County Record May 19, 2015, 8:05am


A worker at US Steel is suing her employer for allegedly overlooking sexual harassment and retaliating after complaints were made.

Mary R. Richards filed another complaint on May 1 in Madison County Circuit Court against US Steel, which she alleges has permitted a pattern of harassment and retaliation to occur in her workplace.

Richards, a Roxana resident, started working as an electrician for US Steel in 1995.

Starting in April 2010, her boss, Jesse Byrd, allegedly wouldn't give Richards the tools needed for her work, when he would get the same tools for others. Richards, who complained to Byrd repeatedly, also complained to a human resources officer and a civil rights complaint was filed through a union.

Byrd, when asked by Richards for these needed tools, would always tell her that he had none to give her, the lawsuit states.

Then, on June 2010, Byrd allegedly approached Richards while in the break area and jerked her jacket open and said, "I like that." Richards alleges she was scared and fled, immediately filing a complaint through her union.

On another occasion, allegedly in the presence of two other electricians, the lawsuit states, Byrd saw Richards standing on an overturned bucket trying to retrieve something off a high shelf and said, "You think that bucket will hold all of that?" Roberts reported this also to the union and HR.

After chronicling a few other similar incidents, the plaintiff alleges US Steel would not provide her with a female bathroom, only providing a unisex option.

Byrd then allegedly told a joke about how his wife had told him that she wanted to put some Miracle-Gro on his "weezer." Though self-deprecating, again, the plaintiff filed a complaint. Then when she showed up for overtime work, Byrd allegedly assigned her to trash duty, allegedly as retaliation.

Around this time, she was called to speak with an HR employee about the jacket incident, the lawsuit states. After breaking into tears, the employee allegedly told her that she was being too emotional and to seek mental health treatment.

Later, before being transferred to another department, Richards was allegedly told by the HR official that she "just had to adjust to Byrd's rough management style."

In January 2011, Richards filed an internal civil rights complaint that alleged acts of sexual harassment, after which the company's attorney allegedly told her that she "needed to adjust to her work environment," the lawsuit states.

Finally, in February 2012, Richards was told about how a disciplinary report was being filed against her due to work absences that a supervisor originally informed her would be handled by adjusting her schedule to avoid delaying call-offs, the lawsuit states. These absences occurred more than a year before the disciplinary action took place, the suit states.

Her supervisor also told the union that she would be terminated if she didn't sign two "last chance agreements," which weren't described in the lawsuit.

Richards is suing because she "believes that this effort to terminate her was out of retaliation for filing an [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] charge and an internal sexual harassment complaint," the lawsuit alleges. "Plaintiff had a history of working satisfactorily for the company for over 17 years."

The plaintiff claims these alleged acts have led to "tremendous emotional distress and pressure" that have resulted in "distress and loss of enjoyment of life," according to the lawsuit. She seeks damages in excess of $100,000, plus costs.

The plaintiff is represented by attorney Greg Roosevelt in Edwardsville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-555.

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