Employee accuses IPI supervisor of sex harassment


A Chinese employee of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court yesterday against her then-supervisor and IPI.

The complainant, through counsel William M. Fitzgerald, accused Stephen Brown of sexual harassment and IPI of ignoring her complaint against him.

She is demanding unspecified damages from both Brown and IPI.

As of press time, Saipan Tribune was still awaiting comments from Brown and IPI.

The complainant is a pit supervisor and has worked for IPI since Sept. 10, 2015. Her direct supervisor was Brown, a U.S. citizen, who was the pit manager.

According to Fitzgerald in the complaint, the plaintiff and Brown initially had a cordial professional work relationship and were neighbors in company-provided housing but this changed in late January 2017, when Brown began to show a sexual interest in the plaintiff.

Fitzgerald said the plaintiff was not interested in anything more than being friends with Brown and indicated that she had another existing relationship.

Brown, however, allegedly continued to badger the complainant via daily text messages, asking her to video conference with him. She also accused Brown of sending her a picture of his privates and texting her about pleasuring himself while thinking of her.

This allegedly kept happening throughout 2017 and 2018. Whenever she refused to answer his calls, he would allegedly contact her over and over again, causing her phone to repeatedly ring until she relents and accepts his calls.

Fitzgerald said the complainant did not know how to respond to the constant improper communications as she was concerned about her job security as a Chinese CW-1 worker, and lack of understanding of American worker rights.

Throughout this time, Brown allegedly kept asking her to have sex with him, and that he allegedly kept making outrageous sexual requests, and would often approach her at work and touch her inappropriately.

On more than one occasion, Fitzgerald said, Brown tried to kiss the complainant but she would push him away.

To stop Brown, the complainant lied and told him she has a new roommate and could no longer accept his requests for video conferencing. In response, he allegedly retaliated by accusing her of making mistakes at work.

Fitzgerald said this false accusation made the plaintiff afraid that she might lose her job.

On Sept. 25, 2017, the plaintiff filed a complaint against Brown with IPI’s Human Resource Department, asking them to investigate, as she feared for both her personal safety and job security.

Despite this, during the months of October, November and early December 2018, IPI allegedly did nothing to investigate the complaint and, instead, Brown was promoted in December 2018, causing the plaintiff to become very upset and apprehensive, and to suffer severe emotional distress.

Fitzgerald said that in December 2018, Brown allegedly resumed communicating with the complainant. She told an IPI supervisor about this, that Brown was again texting her sexual statements and requests. A different supervisor told her in a phone call that he had forwarded her complaint to the Human Resource Department.

Fitzgerald said that on Dec. 21, 2018, IPI’s Human Resource Department called the plaintiff in for an interview, which never took place because she fainted and was taken to the hospital.

On Dec. 20, 2018, the plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that Brown had sexually harassed her and that IPI had ignored her complaint.

Seven months later, on July 11, 2019, EEOC issued her a notice of right to sue, which she received last July 18.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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