Since a story aired in on WHSV3 in August regarding sexual harassment Charges filed with the EEOC by two former employees against Annandale Millwork and Allied Systems for ignoring complaints of sexual harassment by the “Design Manager” (referred to as the “Manager” in first blog post), four former employees of Annandale, have come forward with allegations based on what they witnessed working at Annandale. The allegations included an account of racial discrimination by Laurie Frogale, who ran Human Resources, and a situation where she observed one of her managers using racial slurs, with a person of color present, but said nothing to the harasser. The allegations, made under oath, include that a complaint was made to Frogale of sexual harassment by the Design Manager before the two women who filed Charges with the EEOC worked at Annandale and complaints about sexual harassment by other managers, which Laurie Frogale either ignored or condoned. The women who have come forward have provided sworn declarations alleging sexual harassment and disregard for their civil rights. Excerpts are repeated below.
The first Declarant stated under oath that she is African American and that when she was hired in September 2016 she had straight hair. In her sworn declaration she states that:
6. However, around three months after I was hired, I decided to have my hair out in an afro. When Laurie noticed my hair that day, she approached me with a look of disgust and said, “What is this? This is not who I hired.”
Such statements are evidence of racial bias, which is why in 2020 Virginia passed legislation prohibiting employers from restricting natural black hair, including Afros.
Shortly after that incident, Laurie moved me to the Structural Design department in a different building, where I worked in a design position for which I had no prior experience or training.
7. In Structural Design, I reported to the [Design Manager] [As in the previous blog piece, we are using pseudonyms for the Charging Parties and the managers who engaged in sexual harassment.] My initial impression of the [Design Manager] was that he was highly favored by upper management—Laurie and Robert Frogale. He participated heavily in the Frogales’ gym and gym-associated programs.
8. It became apparent that the [Design Manager] took advantage of the female employees under his supervision. He would make comments about mine and other women’s bodies regularly. He said things to me like, “you look good,” in an objectifying and demeaning way while scanning my body with his eyes. This happened daily.
9. Any time that . . . I would have to pass by the [Design Manager]’s office . . . he would pull me into his office, which was small, and talk to me about personal, non-work related matters, including his sex life. He would tell me about his new wife, and how she would perform oral sex on him. He would tell me details about where he would have sex—for example, that he would have sex with his new wife in his jeep, or that she would [perform fellatio on him] during lunch. My response, given that I was his supervisee, was to freeze in silence, or to say “ok,” in order to move on.
10. On one occasion when I was walking by the [Design Manager]’s office, I saw that he was watching a video on his work computer of a female Annandale employee working out at the gym.
11. The verbal comments were not the extent of the [Design Manager]’s sexual harassment. When I would leave his office, he would put his hand on my behind. Other times, he would walk by me and brush his hand across my behind. At first, I thought that it was inadvertent. But it kept happening, and it became clear that he was trying to cop a feel of my buttocks. It soon progressed to the point where he would say “Hey!” while touching my behind.
The Declarant explained why at this time she did not report the Design Manager’s sexual harassment to Frogale:
12. The [Design Manager]’s sexual harassment made me so uncomfortable in my job, but I did not report his conduct to Laurie Frogale because I knew she would do nothing about it, since she never did anything when I reported the [Shipping Manager]’s conduct.
As she explained under oath:
14. [A]manager in the shipping and receiving department would make sexual comments about women employees regularly . . . On one occasion, there was a female employee who had just turned 18 years old, and he made a comment right in front of her that he used to babysit her as a kid but now had to look the other way. I told Laurie Frogale, who I understood was HR for Annandale, about the [Shipping Manager]’s comments. Her response was, “He just says stuff like that.”
At her termination, she made plain to Frogale that the [Design Manager] had engaged in sexual harassment:
15. Laurie told me that she was going to fire me because [an employee] made a complaint against me for sexual harassment. There was no questioning, let alone any investigation, into this so- called complaint. It seemed as if Laurie Frogale knew that the complaint was bogus because she said, “Don’t worry, we’re never going to say anything bad about you.”
16. I looked over at the [Design Manager], who was sitting next to Laurie Frogale, and said [to Frogale] “how interesting it was that I was being fired for sexual harassment while he is sitting right there,” making clear to Laurie Frogale that the [Design Manager] engages in sexual harassment. . . Laurie Frogale did not ask me to provide any details about the [Design Manager]’s conduct.
17. I asked Laurie Frogale, “What about my complaint about the [Shipping Manager]?” She responded, “This is not about the [Shipping Manager].”
Another woman came forward to express concern that Laurie Frogale was as much a part of the hostile work environment problem at Annandale as the harassing managers themselves. The woman worked from 2013 to 2018, with a brief hiatus. She started as a Receptionist and quickly became Safety Coordinator. She told Frogale that she had turned down her manager for a date, and he was retaliating against her by humiliating her in front of coworkers. In her sworn statement she say that:
5. Laurie simply told me to ignore him and that she would have a talk with him. But if she ever did have a talk with him, I am unaware of it. She never asked me to write anything down, never asked me for witnesses, I never saw her take any notes concerning my complaint. [The manager’]s harassment and retaliatory treatment of me continued.
6. It did not surprise me that Laurie did not do anything to stop [the manager]’s conduct. I often heard [him] make racist comments in the HR office, including slurs such as the “N” word and “Sp*cs” concerning Hispanic workers, without any response from Laurie, even when he said such slurs in the presence of people of color in Laurie’s office. Through her silence she signaled that creating a hostile work environment for Hispanic workers was permitted under Annandale policy, as she, head of Human Resources, administered it.
7. My then co-Safety Coordinator . . . was Hispanic. She told me that after she complained to Laurie Frogale about [the manager]’s racist comments, his comments continued. As far as I know, [that manager] still works at Annandale.
The witness reported other sexually harassing conduct to Frogale. She alleges that Frogale did nothing:
8. A [Shipping Manager] regularly harassed me and other women. He was very “handsy.” He would come up behind me and caress the back of my neck, and make sexually objectifying comments like, “Damn girl, you look good,” or “she’s gettin’ it on!” or “she’s looking sexy!” I reported the [Shipping Manager]’s conduct to Laurie Frogale, and just as she had done with my prior complaint about [the Manager who wanted to date me], she told me to just ignore the [Shipping Manager]. She did not otherwise document or investigate my complaint
After her brief absence from Annandale, when she returned, another male manager spread a false rumor that the Witness was sleeping with another employee.
10. Laurie Frogale was responsible for my resigning. It was clear she had no interest in performing her job as head of HR. Her concern seemed to be to protect the men making money for Annandale, rather than protecting the women they were harassing. This led to my resignation—or more accurately my inability to continue working at Annandale— which amounted to a firing.
11. This increased the hostility of my work environment. When [he] made this false statement to Laurie Frogale, Laurie called me into her office. Instead of expressing concern that [he] was creating a hostile work environment, she started yelling at me. I told her that I could not work in a hostile work environment any longer, and gave her my two weeks’ notice. Laurie then screamed at me, “You can get out right now and you can never come back!”
Another former Annandale employee contacted our firm after the broadcast and provided a written statement under oath. She alleged that she worked at Annandale from 2018 to 2021, when she quit “because of the company’s indifference to my complaint of sexual harassment” by my manager, known to all as “Hooter.”
3. In or around January 2019, a project manager who was known to everyone as “Hooter” began working with me. I understand that this project manager . . .is known as “Hooter” because he frequents the restaurant Hooters for lunch. Everyone, including our supervisor, Jackie Bates, called him “Hooter.” Jackie Bates is Annandale President Robert Frogale’s daughter and supervises several departments, including the customer service department I worked in.
4. As part of my job role, I was required to make job site visits with project managers. I was troubled when at one point, when I was alone with Hooter on a trip to a job site, Hooter said to me in a suggestive manner that instead of going to the job site, “we could go somewhere else.” I tried not to think much of it, but I was afraid for my physical safety . . .
5. A female coworker of mine . . . told me that she had complained to Jackie about Hooter making comments about her behind. If Annandale took any action in response to this complaint, I’m unaware of it.
6. I tried keeping my distance from Hooter. But he would frequently message me via text or email after work hours. On one occasion in December 2020, he sent me a picture of himself when he was younger, and asked if I would go out “on a date” with someone who looked like that. See Exhibit A.
7. Soon after, he sent another message:
I would love to have an opportunity to have you as a friend outside work . . . You are very special person I know I’m stepping over the line but I wanted to tell you I just how I feel. . .
See Exhibit B.
8. I forwarded the message to Jackie Bates, my supervisor, and she stated that she would raise the issue with Human Resources and “we will address it.” See Exhibit C.
9. The following Monday I received an acknowledgment from Laurie Frogale’s assistant in HR that HR received my complaint. But I heard nothing further from HR. No one contacted me to schedule an interview or to come into the HR office. No one asked me to write a statement. No one inquired about other interactions I had had with Hooter. No investigation was done.
10. A week later, I asked Jackie Bates what the status was of my complaint. Her response was to tell me that Hooter was going through a divorce and that he thought he and I were friends.
11. Hooter remained working in his position without any change in the situation. I was left to fend for myself and avoid Hooter. I felt like I could not work in the environment at Annandale anymore, so I began looking for another job and left when I found one in April 2021.
Another former Annandale employee got in touch with us after the story ran, who alleged under oath that she also had serious problems with Hooter, and getting Annandale Human Resources to control his sexual harassment:
2. I am a female, former employee of Annandale Millwork and Allied Systems, Corp. (“Annandale”). I worked there from July 2020 until January 2022.
3. I began my employment at Annandale covering both order entry and customer service, and reported to Jackie Bates, who was the daughter of Annandale owner Robert Frogale and the step-daughter of Annandale co-owner Laurie Frogale. At some point around September 2021, I began working in customer service full-time.
4. Soon after I switched to working full-time in customer service, I began seeing a project manager known as “Hooter”. . . He would often corner me at my cubicle and tell me things like, “Any guy would be lucky to have you,” or “you are so beautiful,” or would, without solicitation, launch into his theory of successful romantic relationships. He would attempt to get romantically involved with me, messaging me, and calling me after work hours on my personal cell phone. Even when I turned him down, he would persist in harassing me in this way.
5. Because of the workload, I had to come into work early. Hooter caught onto this and . . . he would come into the office well before work hours began, sit or stand right outside my cubicle, and remain there for hours. . .I had to stop coming into the office at times just to avoid him.
6. I learned that other women had previously complained about Hooter to management, including to supervisor Jackie Bates, and to Human Resources, which I understood consisted of Laurie Frogale, Annandale’s co-President. But it was apparent that nothing was done to address Hooter’s harassment.
7. At some point in late 2021, I complained to Jackie Bates about Hooter and told her about how he was messaging me and calling me late at night and cornering me at my office whenever I was there. She told me that she “would take care of it.” . . . As far as I know, my complaint was never investigated. I received no contact from HR, no request for a statement, witnesses, or messages that I had received from Hooter. I also received no follow-up from Jackie Bates in response to my complaint.
8. Hooter’s harassment continued. At some point in December 2021, I could not tolerate the harassment any longer, so I gave Jackie Bates my two-weeks’ notice.
9. I met with Laurie Frogale to collect my last paycheck and return a work laptop in January 2022. I once again reported Hooter’s harassment. . . . Confirming what I understood was Annandale’s lack of a response to my initial complaint, Laurie Frogale told me that she would “look into it.” I heard nothing further from Laurie Frogale, Jackie Bates, or anyone else from Annandale management in response to my complaint about Hooter’s harassment.
Meanwhile, Laurie Frogale, speaking for the company to WHSV3 news, said that she, “adamantly denies all of the [Charging Parties’] allegations and said that nothing illegal was done.” Friedman & Houlding LLP will continue to fight on behalf of the Charging Parties and amplify the voices of women who speak out against the company for its disregard for their federally protected rights.