Woman says former boss sexually harassed her

By Cara Bailey | Oct 1, 2007

CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County woman has filed a suit against her former employer, claiming her supervisor sexually harassed her.

Linda Plemons Buechler filed a suit Sept. 14 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Old Dominion Freight Lines Inc. and Lemuel B. Clayton, a North Carolina resident.

According to the suit, Buechler was hired July 11, 2006, as a sales executive for Old Dominion. As part of her job, she was provided with a company vehicle and her travel expenses were paid.

Buechler claims that shortly after she started, Clayton, the vice president of Old Dominion, began showing interest in her.

"At first it appeared as though Clayton was simply being nice and showing (Buechler) the business," the suit says. "However, it soon became apparent to Ms. Buechler that Clayton wanted something more than just a business relationship."

According to the suit, Clayton sent Buechler sexually offensive jokes and e-mails, and came to West Virginia as frequently as once every other week, whereas he made the trip no more than twice a year before.

Buechler also claims she was invited to what she believed was a business dinner with other sales representative, but when she arrived found that Clayton had planned "what he believed to be a romantic dinner alone," the suit says.

According to the suit, Buechler claims she needed her job to support her son and feared she would lose her job if she did not dine with Clayton.

Buechler also claims Clayton knew of her financial position and manipulated her into driving him back to his hotel, "all the while making propositions for sex," the suit says.

On several occasions, Clayton inappropriately touched Buechler and tried to kiss her, even when Buechler told him she was not interested and requested that he stop, the suit says.

"Shortly after Ms. Buechler's employment with Old Dominion began, Clayton ordered that a cubical be constructed around (her) desk," the suit says. "At the time, no other sales representative had a cubical installed in such a fashion."

Buechler claims Clayton would go into her cubical and make sexual advances toward her.

Clayton continued the sexual harassment, Buechler claimed, which included placing his hands on her thighs, sending her inappropriate birthday cards, and calling her as many as 10 times a day.

Buechler claimed that Clayton would demand she return his calls, and in one particular month, Buechler has a cell phone bill of $1,200, with Clayton's calls making up the vast majority, the suit says.

According to the suit, Buechler feared for her job, which is why she did not report Clayton's actions. However, she decided to go her supervisor, John Stratton, and informed him of the phone calls, birthday card and inappropriate attention Clayton showed her.

"Out of embarrassment, (Buechler) did not reveal the severity or pervasiveness of Clayton's conduct to Mr. Stratton," the suit says.

According to the suit, Clayton began to provide her with intimate details of his life including an affair he had with a previous employee, who went to visit his wife. Clayton claims he told the employee, "if she ever spoke to his wife again, he would kill her," the suit says.

During December 2006, Clayton told Buechler that her job was in jeopardy if she did not comply with his advances. By early Spring 2007, Clayton's misconduct had created an intolerable and abusive working environment for Buechler, the suit says.

"Finally, on a business trip to North Carolina, (Buechler) refused to meet with Clayton or to return his phone calls," the suit says. "Upon her return to West Virginia, Ms. Buechler was treated differently by her superiors at Old Dominion, including Gary Calwell."

Calwell is a defendant in the case.

Buechler was ultimately forced to resign.

According to information provided, Clayton was asked to resign from a previous job because of an allegation of sexual harassment by a female employee.

In the nine-count suit, Buechler claims she suffered severe emotional and mental distress, humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, aggravation, annoyance and inconvenience.

Buechler seeks an on-going training program for Old Dominion employees regarding sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. She also seeks back pay, front pay and benefits for which she is eligible.

Attorney Matthew S. Criswell is representing Buechler. The case has been assigned to Judge Charles King.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-1941

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