Former employee suing Fisher Controls, alleging harassment
A former Fisher Controls International employee filed suit against the company in 2016, alleging harassment.
Lillian Nixon is suing Fisher, alleging negligent supervision after reporting harassment, according to court documents and proceedings Thursday in Marshall County District Court. 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.
Court documents show Nixon seeks $10 million in punitive damages and $482,787
in lost wages.
While employed at the company’s Governor Road facility, Nixon was once a member of the union, which represents a number of the site’s employees in collective bargaining with the company.
Nixon resigned from the UAW in February 2015. As a right-to-work state, workers have the right to join a union, not join a union or resign from a union. Nixon’s suit alleges certain UAW workers resented Nixon’s resignation and retaliated.
The retaliation, according to documents, 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, placing stickers or calendars in her work area which castigated her as a “scab” for resigning and other allegations.
The suit alleges Nixon repeatedly complained to Fisher management about the harassment.
She asked managers to place a camera in her work area so those harassing her could be identified and stopped. The suit also contends Nixon’s department manager agreed with her and requested a camera on her behalf.
“Even union members, concerned about being unjustly accused, asked for a camera to be placed in Nixon’s work area,” court documents read. “A Fisher manager denied the camera request even though it was not prohibited by the union contract and Fisher had never proposed negotiations with the union on the subject.”
Fisher attorneys said Nixon did not work cooperatively with co-workers and her attitude toward them, among other issues, resulted in the actions against her, court records show.
Court documents also show Fisher responded to Nixon’s complaints by speaking to union members about the harassment and threatened them with discharge, but no one could determine who was harassing Nixon.
Thursday’s proceedings featured testimony from Fisher witness Bruce Mailey, a vocational specialist with 30 years experience in the field. He claimed Nixon could have found work elsewhere after she resigned from Fisher, but lacked motivation. Mailey said she could have found work in manufacturing, or in any number of other occupations she had before being employed at Fisher.
In cross-examination, Nixon’s attorneys repeatedly challenged Mailey’s credibility as an expert witness. Her attorney also defended Nixon, asserting severe depression resulting from the harassment factored heavily into the lack of motivation and other issues cited by Mailey.
Proceedings, which began March 5, are expected to end Friday. It is a non-jury trial with Judge James Ellefson issuing the verdict.
Both parties declined to comment beyond court records.
Nixon is being 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.
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