Human Rights Commission to consider harassment complaint against Auburn direct call company

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AUGUSTA — The Maine Human Rights Commission is expected to vote Monday morning on a sexual harassment complaint filed by a Livermore Falls woman against an Auburn telemarketing firm.

Lisa Cote of Livermore Falls filed the complaint in September, alleging that between May 15 and June 3 last year she was “subjected to unwelcome, offensive sexual harassment by a male co-worker and manager” at Call In Direct. According to her complaint, the environment became so hostile that Cote felt she had to quit her job.

According to the commission’s investigator, there are reasonable grounds to believe Cote was harassed at work because of her gender.

In her complaint, Cote alleges that during her three-week employment with the call center, she was harassed by a number of people, including being subjected to “unwelcome sexual advances, comments about her physical attributes and requests for sex.”

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She told commission investigators that she reported the harassment to a manager, but the company took no action to stop the harassment, despite the fact that the company’s employee handbook has a policy that strictly prohibits sexual harassment, saying that “all complaints of sexual harassment will be promptly investigated by the company.”

Sexual harassment, including unwelcome advances or requests for sexual favors, when “such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment,” is a violation of the Maine Human Rights Act,

No one from Call In Direct responded to the commission investigator’s request for a response to Cote’s allegations, and the investigator noted in his report that the company’s “failure to respond during the course of the investigation is inexplicable given the serious nature of the claim.”

Because the company did not respond, all allegations made by Cote are “taken to be true,” according to the commission report, and there is a recommendation that Call In Direct and Cote work out some kind of settlement in accordance with state law before the case proceeds to superior court.

There is no information in the commission’s report regarding ownership of Call In Direct, and there is no company listing with that name with the Maine Secretary of State’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commission.

The commission’s meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, May 16, at its office at 19 Union St., Augusta.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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