CHARLESTON – A former employee of Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union says she and her former co-workers were subjected to a workplace filled with sexual harassment of all kinds.
Ruth Ann Carroll filed the lawsuit June 29 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Pioneer and CEO Eugene "Mike" Frederick. She also accused the defendants of unlawful retaliation, age discrimination and sex discrimination.
Carroll, who lives in Marmet, was supervised by Frederick. She says he "subjected Ms. Carroll's co-workers to unwelcome, sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature which had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with her work performance which created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."
In her complaint, filed by Charleston attorney John Einreinhofer, Carroll also says the defendants also "tolerated sexual harassment perpetrated against the plaintiff."
Carroll worked at Pioneer from Aug. 24, 1989, to Nov. 3, 2005.
"Frederick has a pattern and practice of improperly making sexual advances on subordinate employees in the workplace and attempting to induce them with favoritism on the job," the complaint states. "Such employees included, but are not limited to, Monica Keading, Kari Binion, Carrie Jones and Heather Lewis Withrow.
Carroll says Frederick's conduct was known to the Pioneer Board of Directors.
"One board member attempted to take action, but was stopped by the board president, Leonard Allen, who conspired with the defendant Frederick to enable and cover up Defendants conduct," she claims.
She also says Frederick sexually harassed employee Emily Chandler. And when she testified to the incident, she was harassed by Allen.
Carroll says Allen maintained a social relationship with Frederick "to such a level that it constructively became a conflict of interest." She said the board failed to investigate sexual harassment allegations against Frederick contained in a 2005 civil lawsuit and also failed to sanction Frederick.
Carroll says that when she reported being sexually harassed by a co-worker to the board, it was reported to Frederick. But "neither took significant disciplinary action against the perpetrator, who according to a board member was also a convicted criminal."
"Plaintiff was constructively replaced in a job position by Heather Lewis Withrow, a female who had acquiesced in the Defendant Frederick's harassing conduct."
Carroll also says Frederick fired another employee who was close to exposing his harassing conduct with Withrow.
Withrow "was hired by defendant when in her early 20s with no banking experience, and he almost immediately started his sexual advances when she began employment," the complaint states.
Carroll says Frederick, while married, started a sexual and social relationship with Withrow that violated Pioneer's sexual harassment policy.
As a result of Frederick's conduct, Carroll says she was demoted and given a pay cut.
He "discriminated against other older employees in favor of younger, more attractive females," she says.
She also contends that Frederick and Allen tried to intimidate employees who challenged his outrageous and illegal conduct. Also, she says Pioneer tried to hide his conduct from yearly evaluations.
Carroll also accused Frederick of repeatedly violating the employee handbook without sanction. She also says allegations never were evaluated by independent investigator and that there were no reports prepared of sexual harassment "investigation" despite rampant sexual harassment in the workplace.
"No one at Pioneer … has ever suffered an actual discipline for sexual harassment other than a paid vacation," she says in the suit.
Carroll says Frederick gave Withrow should get a promotion over more qualified applicants because she "was the hottest one that applied."
She also says Frederick fired employees and punished them if he feared they would interfere with his improper sexual relationships with Keading and Withrow, making the work environment even more hostile.
The Pioneer board failed to act, so "employees collectively lost faith that anything would be done about his conduct," Carroll says in her complaint.
She also says Frederick "regularly drank alcoholic beverages in the workplace, which helped to fuel his harassing conduct."
Yet, she says Pioneer took no action.
"In fact, some board members encouraged it," she contends.
She says Frederick's "conduct was so severe that it resulted in demotion of the plaintiff and later the constructive discharge of the plaintiff."
She also says she suffered emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation and other general damages.
Carroll seeks to be awarded general and other damages to be determined by a jury including, but not limited to, back pay, front pay, lost benefits as well as an award for mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, aggravation and inconvenience and damage to her reputation. She also seeks punitive damages, attorney fees and other relief.
She also seeks to have the court enjoin Frederick from influencing and/or intimidating potential witnesses in this case.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jim Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 06-C-1273