DETROIT - A Detroit woman is suing the Great Lakes Water Authority, claiming she was fired after complaining about sexual harassment related to the size of her breasts and being forced to return to work early from a breast reduction surgery.
Nicole Massey started working for the GLWA on Jan. 1, 2016, after being employed by the company's predecessor, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, for 15 years, according to the lawsuit.
Allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination
Massey said she was "continuously berated and mocked and made fun of due to the size of her breasts" while employed at GLWA, the lawsuit says.
Massey said she was told her breasts were too large and was given uniform violations because of them, according to the lawsuit.
"(Massey)'s breasts became a daily topic of conversation for her co-workers and supervisors and she was teased, made fun of and humiliated due to her breasts and sex," the lawsuit states.
According to Massey, she was constantly told she needed a more supportive bra and often accused of not wearing a bra.
When Massey complained about the harassment and discrimination to upper management, they did nothing to stop it, instead participating in the harassment, according to the lawsuit.
Massey said her supervisors began a campaign to punish her in retaliation for complaining about their harassment and discrimination, the lawsuit states.
Breast reduction surgery
According to the lawsuit, Massey decided to have breast reduction surgery in 2017 because she could no longer tolerate the "constant looks, stares, comments, mocking and teasing about her breasts."
Massey went on approved leave Oct. 30 and was scheduled to return to work Nov. 17, the lawsuit states. She had the surgery Nov. 5, according to records.
On Nov. 15, Massey's supervisor called her during the approved leave and demanded she return to work, according to the lawsuit.
Massey said her supervisor was "hostile and aggressive toward her, telling her, 'I'm not going to be doing any more FMLA leave,' in clear violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act," court records show.
Massey fired on first day back
According to the lawsuit, Massey returned to work Nov. 16 and was fired by her supervisor for complaining about the sex and gender harassment and discrimination.
The lawsuit claims Massey was fired in retaliation for her complaints.
The GLWA is accused of creating a hostile work environment for Massey over more than a year due to her gender.
"(Massey) has been subjected to repeated and continuous harassment and discriminatory treatment based upon her sex by (the GLWA), its employees and agents to the point where her status as an employee has been detrimentally affected," the lawsuit says.
Massey is accusing the GLWA and its employees of violating the laws against discrimination by engaging in sexual harassment in the workplace, retaliating against an employee who made complaints and failing to take serious action when she reported the conduct.
The lawsuit claims the GLWA failed to prevent or stop sexual harassment against Massey, took adverse employment action against her due to her sex and retaliated against her for complaining about sexual harassment.
Massey says she has suffered "humiliation, embarrassment, outrage, mental anguish, anxiety, emotional distress, a loss of self-esteem and a loss of earnings and other employee benefits," along with a "loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life" because of the harassment, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, Massey is requesting in excess of $75,000 on the sexual harassment count.
She is also seeking a gender discrimination count against the GLWA because she was subjected to poor treatment and hostility because she's a female, according to the lawsuit.
"(The GLWA) owed (Massey) as an employee a duty to adequately advise their employees to refrain from discriminating against employees," the lawsuit states.
Massey said the gender discrimination has caused her "physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, fright, shock, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, outrage, anxiety, emotional distress, loss of self-esteem, loss off earnings and benefits and a loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life," according to the lawsuit.
Massey is also alleging her sex was a factor in her employment decisions, the lawsuit states.
"(The GLWA) had actual and constructive notice that it was creating an intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment for (Massey)," the lawsuit says.
Instead of taking action to stop the sexual harassment, the GLWA retaliated against Massey for complaining, according to the lawsuit.
Violation of the FMLA
Massey said she requested and was approved for FMLA leave to allow her to undergo breast reduction surgery in an attempt to stop the harassment, discrimination and ridicule, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, the GLWA violated the FMLA by retaliating against Massey for exercising her rights under FMLA.
Discrimination in violation of 29 U.S.C.
According to the lawsuit, "employers cannot use the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions such as hiring, promotions or disciplinary actions."
The lawsuit states Massey's FMLA leave was approved by the GLWA, but then she was forced to return early and subsequently fired.
Massey is requesting in excess of $75,000 on these counts.
Massey and her attorney demanded a jury trial on all the counts listed above.
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