BATH, Maine — A Bowdoinham woman fired from Bath Iron Works in September 2015 after working at the shipyard for five weeks has filed suit in federal court claiming she was discriminated against because of her gender.
According to a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, Lana Smith was hired on Aug. 27, 2015, as a P10 preservation technician (painter) at the shipyard. She was assigned to work under supervisors who allegedly told her repeatedly, in front of other employees and supervisors, that she should not be working at BIW because she is a woman.
Topsham attorney Samuel S. Riotte wrote in the complaint that on or about Sept. 3, 2015, the supervisor told Smith that he “did not want [her] working there because [she] was a woman and this type of work is not for [her].”
Riotte added that the supervisor allegedly told Smith, “I would not ask my wife to do this work, so I’m not going to ask you to do this work.”
According to the complaint, another “back-up supervisor” who was supposed to be training made statements such as “God made women weak and men strong” and “God made women to do light work and men to do heavy, strong work.”
“My wife has dinner ready when I arrive home from work,” the man allegedly told Smith, according to the complaint. “When he asked Ms. Smith if she agreed with what he was saying, she told him no.”
Instead of training Smith as a preservation technician, her supervisor allegedly assigned her basic cleaning work. Her supervisor also allegedly asked Smith to sign an evaluation that identified “shortcomings” she believed were the result of his unwillingness to train her.
In early September, when Smith was hired for an electrician’s job at BIW, she was unable to start because her former supervisor allegedly never forwarded the necessary paperwork. Instead, she continued in her previous position, and the complaint alleges that after that the harassment continued and she complained her supervisor took no action.
Finally, the complaint alleges that on Sept. 24, 2015, as Smith left BIW after her shift, a man “started screaming and swearing at her” about rumors she alleges had been spread at the company.
According to the complaint, Smith emailed a number of supervisors that evening about what she called “borderline sexual harassment.” The next day, according to the complaint, Smith was called to a meeting at the shipyard’s administrative offices, handed two evaluations she says identified shortcomings that resulted from lack of training and was then terminated.
Smith filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Dec. 24, 2015, as well as an amended complaint of discrimination on May 20, 2016, according to the complaint.
Smith received right to sue notices from both agencies in December 2016 after neither reviewed her complaint within the required 180 days, according to court documents.
The lawsuit charges BIW with violating the Maine Human Rights Act and Title VII by subjecting Smith to a hostile work environment based on her sex, discriminating against her on the basis of her sex, treating her differently than male employees, terminating her unfairly and illegally retaliating against her after she complained of the harassment.
Bath Iron Works spokesman David Hench declined to comment on ongoing litigation.