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Security firm harassed female guards in Woodlawn, EEOC claims



A private security firm for the U.S. Social Security Administration in Woodlawn maintained a sexually hostile work environment and fired one of its guards who complained about it, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The complaint came one day after the EEOC sued the firm, MVM Inc., for allegedly subjecting its African-born employees to harassment and discrimination at the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health, where the firm also has a security contract.

Ashburn, Va.-based MVM has denied EEOC’s allegation of national-origin discrimination, as well as the more recent claim of gender bias.

“MVM promotes a healthy and safe work environment for all of our employees,” MVM said in a statement Thursday. “We take any claims of behavior that may compromise this environment very seriously, which is why we launched a prompt and thorough investigation into this alleged incident once it was brought to our attention.”

In Woodlawn, MVM manager Alexander Gough made unwelcome sexual advances – including inappropriate touching and attempted kissing – as well as crude comments to female employees, the EEOC alleged in its complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Monique Wilson, a victim of the improper contact and lewd suggestions, was fired in March 2016 in retaliation for having complained to MVM management about two weeks earlier, the commission claimed.

The supervisor’s behavior and the company’s retaliatory firing – if proven – violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits gender discrimination in employment, the complaint states. The commission seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Wilson and other victims found to have been subject to the alleged harassment since August 2014, as well as a court order that MVM take steps to ensure its compliance with the anti-discrimination law.

“MVM tolerated repeated and widespread sexual harassment by the acting site manager,” Kevin Berry, director of EEOC’s Philadelphia district, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “It compounded the problem by punishing a woman who complained about sexual harassment instead of taking swift action against the wrongdoer. Since MVM failed to react properly, it is now up to the EEOC to vindicate the rights of these women who were subject to such abuse.”

But MVM countered its investigation “found no evidence to substantiate the claims made in this case.”

“Our investigation included interviews with the MVM employees and other witnesses, as well as a thorough review of video footage taken at the site where and when the incident  allegedly occurred,” the company said in its statement. “Although we made the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission aware of this video and witnesses, to our knowledge they have not yet spoken to those witnesses or reviewed the relevant video footage.”

The lawsuit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz and is docketed as U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. MVM Inc., No. 1:17-cv-02881-JFM.

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