Testimony ends in lawsuit filed by former Fisher employee

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY - Drew Wright of Fisher Controls International is pictured listening to a question from an attorney in Marshall County District Court Friday. Wright was called as a witness by attorneys representing Fisher Controls International.

Proceedings are nearing conclusion in a former employee’s lawsuit against Fisher Controls International.

On Friday, attorneys from both sides made arguments to convince Marshall County District Court Judge James Ellefson their side is right. Ellefson is expected to issue a verdict in approximately 60 days.

Lillian Nixon is suing Fisher, alleging negligent supervision after reporting harassment, according to court documents and proceedings. Her attorneys contend harassment resulted in Nixon resigning from her position as lead inspector in May 2016. Nixon alleges she was harassed by certain United Auto Workers union employees after she resigned from the union and her supervisors didn’t do enough to stop the behavior.

Attorneys representing Fisher allege Nixon did not work cooperatively with co-workers and her attitude toward them, among other issues, resulted in harassment against her.

Friday’s testimony by Nixon’s supervisor Drew Wright attempted to show the company responded to her complaints of harassment promptly and thoroughly by repeatedly speaking to union members about the harassment and threatening them with discharge, but no one could determine who was harassing Nixon. Wright said he periodically kept an eye on Nixon’s work area before her shift would start in an effort to discover offenders, but was unsuccessful.

Wright also said he believed he had a good working relationship with Nixon. However, he said Nixon wanted a “perfect world” which would have been challenging in a manufacturing environment. Nixon, who worked second shift, used the same work area as first and third shift counterparts. Fisher attorneys tried to demonstrate things may have been left in the space and were not targeted at her.

In cross-examination, Nixon’s attorneys questioned Wright, alleging among other issues, he did not act quickly and was not thorough.

Fisher attorneys also worked aggressively in demonstrating that another non-union employee never complained of harassment and had a good working relationship with union workers, including one worker Nixon identified as a harasser. Wright also said the non-union worker thanked him for his support and his efforts to develop a good working relationship.

Court documents show Nixon seeks $10 million in punitive damages and $482,787 in lost wages.

The retaliation Nixon alleges, according to court proceedings, involved a UAW member shoving Nixon when she was using a company telephone for business, destroying a tire on her car in the Fisher parking lot and placing stickers or calendars in her work area which castigated her as a “scab” for resigning. Her attorneys contend harassment resulted in Nixon’s severe depression.

The non-jury trial started March 5. Both parties declined to comment beyond court records.

Nixon is represented by Andrew Boettger of Hastings, Gartin & Boettger of Ames, and Bruce Cameron of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield, Va. Fisher is represented by Kelsey Crosse and Gene La Suer of the Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines.