A Clay woman who drives trucks alleges in a lawsuit that male co-workers yelled vulgar taunts, pushed and groped her when she worked at the Clinton’s Ditch Co-operative Co. Inc.
Marlene Williamson filed a lawsuit last week in federal court against the company, alleging it sexually discriminated against her.
“I work hard to take care of my kids. It takes a lot to drive me to tears and these guys did it,” said Williamson, 46, a single mother to five children.
A state Division of Human Rights investigation found probable cause for Williamson’s complaint, setting the stage for her to pursue the case in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York.
The cooperative, a bottler and distributor of Pepsi products, Friday denied the allegations.
“There’s nothing to it. We’re going to defend it,” said company lawyer Thomas Budd. “All I know is there is no basis for the suit because I know some of the underlying facts of the suit.”
Williamson was not the first female truck driver hired by the company, Budd said, adding that he doesn’t know if the company currently employs women as drivers.
“Clinton’s Ditch has sexual harassment policies and always acts with respect to any complaint on sexual harassment and it did with respect to her,” Budd said.
Williamson wants a jury to hear her case. She has asked to be awarded back pay, any pay she would have been entitled to if she had continued to work for the company, damages for pain and suffering, and for the company to hold daylong training sessions for its employees on sexual harassment .
Williamson spoke about the lawsuit during an interview in her lawyer’s offices in Victor. She declined to be interviewed or photographed at her home because she said she fears the harassment will continue.
Williamson said she comes from a long line of men and women in her family who drove trucks. Her grandmother drove a truck during World War II, her mother drove, as did her father and uncle. She has driven trucks locally and long distance all of her working career.
She applied for a job with Clinton’s Ditch in June 2005 after another company laid her off.
Shortly after beginning her job, the company promoted Williamson from driver to a higher-paying position staging trailers around the facility, on Pardee Road in Cicero. She drove a small truck moving 70 trailers a shift around the bottler’s lot, getting them ready for loading or unloading, Williamson said.
“I did anything any guy would do,” she said.
In court documents, Williamson alleges the harassment began in October 2005 when she complained to the transportation department head that a forklift driver called her vulgar names. She complained again the following April when the same driver allegedly shoved her during a dispute, the lawsuit said.
Following a meeting with the department head and the shop steward of the Truck Drivers, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers Union Local 707, Williamson agreed to a job change so that she and the forklift driver would be working in separate areas.
Williamson returned to a lower-paying driver position, the lawsuit said.
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