By Angela Kennecke – Januray 9, 2020
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A Sioux Falls woman, who is marking her 20-year career with the United States Postal Service, is suing her employer in federal court for sexual discrimination and retaliation.
Cindy Ekeren works as a mail clerk at the USPS processing and distribution center on North 4th Avenue in Sioux Falls.
Ekeren is accusing USPS of not following its own policies when it comes to sexual harassment and retaliating against her when she reported what she called a “serial harasser” at work.
Ekeren says in April of 2018, a male co-worker repeatedly asked for her home address so he could come to her home and massage her and he told her that her body was driving him “crazy.”
In court documents, Ekeren says she felt disgusted, anxious and worried about the situation because she could not entirely avoid contact with this co-worker while doing her job.
Ekeren told a female co-worker, who said he had also made unwanted advances toward her, and that he had been previously accused of rape and had also harassed another female USPS employee.
According to the USPS’ own written policy, “managers and supervisors are responsible for preventing harassment and inappropriate behavior could lead to illegal harassment and must respond promptly when they learn of such conduct.”
The policy also states that “reprisal against employees to raise a claim of harassment or report inappropriate conduct is illegal and can result in disciplinary action.”
In her case, Ekeren says when she reported this incident in July of 2018, it was acknowledged to her that the man had sexually harassed two other female co-workers and previously been accused of rape.
Months went by and Ekeren says nothing happened.
Ekeren says then she was disciplined for an attendance issue, the first disciplinary action against her in 18 years.
That’s when she says she complained to her direct supervisor that her sexual harassment complaint was being ignored. Her supervisor claimed he had never heard of her report, but would initiate an investigation on her behalf.
However, more months went by and nothing happened. Almost a year later, she says she was told her sexual harassment complaint has been delayed because of an incomplete form that had been forgotten about.
Ekeren claims after that, a supervisor told her that her male co-worker should have been “walked out the door” at the time the harassment took place, but that now it was too late to do anything about her complaint.
Then in June of 2019, Ekeren’s supervisor told her no formal action was going to be taken against her accused harasser because there were no witnesses, but that her co-worker would be told that a sexual harassment report would be noted in his personnel file.
KELOLAND Investigates has learned that Ekeren and the man she accused of sexually harassing her are both still employed by USPS.
Court documents say USPS refused to separate them to different shifts or positions when asked because of how it could negatively affect the male co-worker.
“The Postal Service generally does not comment on pending litigation matters and will not publicly address internal personnel matters in accordance with federal privacy laws. At this point, it is important to recognize that a complaint is merely a statement of allegations and the Postal Service has not had the opportunity to respond.
The Postal Service is committed to providing a work environment free of harassment and has a long history of successfully addressing workplace issues.”
– JAMES BOXRUD | USPS STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS