published Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Sexual harassment and retaliation

  • photo
    Paul Page, Chattanooga's director of general services

Sexual harassment in the workplace has been recognized for years as an inexcusable offense. It is typically addressed by termination of the offender, and by clear and more rigorous enforcement of anti-harassment rules. Yet given the circumstances surrounding city government's treatment of sexual harassment complaints against the city's director of general services, Paul Page -- a fund-raiser and ardent supporter of Mayor Ron Littlefield -- one has to wonder about city government's commitment to anti-harassment standards.

A recent letter from Sarah Smith, the area director for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, clearly puts the city's handling of sexual harassment claims under a cloud. In her letter, Smith says the city retaliated against an employee who complained of sexual harassment by Page, along with other employees, were "sexually harassed and retaliated against."

If the complaints against Page were well founded, the city's punitive actions against the complainants was inexcusable.

Following the first complaint against Page by an employee, filed on Oct. 24, 2008, Smith wrote, the city retaliated against the complainant by "reassigning her to a difference position at a different location." A second complaint by a different employee of sexual harassment by Page, Smith wrote, was filed in December 2008.

In an independent investigation of the first complaint, Page was found to have made comments about women's breasts, their sexual practices and their clothing, and to have made inappropriate jokes, this paper's city hall reporter, Cliff Hightower, wrote in a story published last Friday. Page, Hightower reported, was merely warned then that any future harassment would result in his termination.

Apparently nothing was done with regard to the December complaint, and the city's retaliation against the woman removed from Page's office remains unexplained.

City officials also refused to tell Hightower how many women made allegations of sexual harassment against Page. However, Smith's letter made it clear that complaints came from different women. She also wrote that the EEOC may pursue court action if the city does not appropriately resolve the matter.

City officials declined last Thursday to tell our reporter whether they would contest a court action by the EEOC, or take any other disciplinary action against Page. Page himself initially told Hightower that the recent EEOC letter's reference to two complaints actually referred just to one offense, not two. That was also contrary to what Smith said in the EEOC letter.

The issue should be pursued and the details clarified. If an employee was wrongly subject to retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint, that unjust action should be reversed. If other female employees were harassed by Page as Smith's letter claims, that finally should be investigated and appropriate action should be taken.

If Mayor Littlefield's office treated the allegations against Page inappropriately, that, and the reasons for it, should be made clear and properly addressed. There should be no political shelter for employees who subject others to sexual harassment.

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harrystatel said...

The Littlefield administration created "Rocky the Recycling Raccoon" (thanks to public relations specialist Albert Waterhouse at a cost of over $100,000.00). It's time to have Uncle Albert (when he's not working for River City Company) create an Halloween outfit at taxpayer's expense for Mr. Page.

Since Hannibal Lecter's straight-jacket and mask outfit and Zach Wamp's "Two-Face" costume are passé, it's time to get creative while being mindful of the public treasury. Since revenue enhancement goes to pay the City Hall salaries, they can sell such costumes and raise money for lawsuit payouts.

Here's a few suggestions.

  1. "Prophylatic Paul" - A giant white garbage bag from head to toe with no openings. Protects against unwanted hugs, touches, and drool.

  2. "Dr. Octopus" - from the Spiderman comics. You can never have too many hands for therapeutic touch. Elton John glasses not included.

  3. "Deliverance Dude" - With a shotgun, overalls, and bad teeth, you can make the Littlefield administration squeal while bringing home the bacon. Clean drawers optional.

So hurry down to City Hall, pay a deposit for your desired costume (cash only, no checks please) and you can say, "I'm coming like Paul for Halloween."

September 13, 2011 at 7:09 a.m.
Facts said...

When real discrimination occurs, it needs to be exposed and punished, just as suggested by Mr. Austin.

September 13, 2011 at 7:32 a.m.
joetheplumber said...

Those that know Paul and have worked with him in the past all know that this is blown way out of proportion. The guy is an easy target for faulse or half truth claims. Did he joke around? I suppose he did. Was it constant? I know it was not.

These kinds of claims would not be made if there were not large sums of money involved. We all know that it is easy to get back at the boss by claiming sexual or racial harassment. In this case, a secomd claim is considered a "slum dunk" for the accuser.

Yes, I am on Paul's side on this one and I pray the truth comes out and will put an end to the jokes like Harry's Halloween comment above.

September 14, 2011 at 9:14 a.m.

"Paul Page -- a fund-raiser and ardent supporter of Mayor Ron Littlefield"

For a second i thought this may be politicaly motivated but that couldn't be true why would anyone use something as bad as Sexual Harrassment to further political changes.......hey wait a second.

September 14, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.

payingattention you are so right! I have wittnessed it my self for 2 years. Joetheplumber please be careful I wouldn't want lightening to strike you. Why is it that it's only the little people that get punished for things instead if the big people that are responsible for whats happening in our city government. If the taxpayers only new what was going on behind those closed doors at city hall they would oust everyone and start over.

September 22, 2011 at 11:44 a.m.
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