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Lakewood VA lawsuit accuses Loren Pierce of sexual harassment

A female employee at the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Lakewood, Colorado filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against her employer on December 29, 2014.

The employee, who was hired by the VA in 2007 and was promoted in 2011 and transferred to the VA office in Lakewood, Colorado, claims that she was subjected to “offensive and severe” sexual harassment and a hostile work environment by her boss, Loren Pierce.

Here are some of the allegations that the employee made in the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit complaint that she filed:

  • In December 2011, Plaintiff was informed that Mr. Loren Pierce would become her supervisor or “Coach.” Mr. Pierce previously worked at the Denver VA, but he left to avoid allegations of sexual harassment there by taking a position at the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Before Mr. Pierce’s return to the Denver VA, Susan Erickson (Supervisory Veterans Service Representative/Plaintiff’s Coach) and Robert Kebre (Plaintiff’s Assistant Coach) had a conversation with Plaintiff wherein they discussed Mr. Pierce’s past at the Denver office, which included allegations of sexual harassment and rumors of his previous inappropriate conduct with other Denver VA employees.
  • Indeed, Ms. Erickson and Mr. Kebre also informed Plaintiff that Mr. Pierce was being transferred back to the Denver VA due to serious additional allegations of sexual harassment having been leveled against him by female employees at the Albuquerque VA.
  • However, Ms. Erickson and Mr. Kebre noted that Mr. Pierce’s previous encounters had been with brunettes, and therefore they stated that they did not think Loren Pierce would target Plaintiff “because she was blonde” and told Plaintiff to, “start off with a fresh sheet of paper and see what happens going forward.”
  • In January 2012, Mr. Pierce became Plaintiff’s Coach and he immediately began to sexually harass her. For example, in March 2012 Mr. Pierce told the Plaintiff during her Performance Evaluation that he was attracted to her, and then he stated that they should go out for drinks.
  • Plaintiff informed Ms. Erickson of the conversation with Mr. Pierce who merely told her to, “Stay out of his [Mr. Pierce’s] way.”
  • Even more disturbing, Ms. Erickson then confided in Plaintiff that she was also being sexually harassed by Loren Pierce, and that he was frequently sending her sexually graphic and explicit text messages.
  • Consequently, Plaintiff felt compelled to complain about Mr. Pierce’s conduct to her colleagues, at which time Plaintiff learned that other women had also been and were currently experiencing similar sexual harassment by Mr. Pierce.
  • Specifically, one female employee had previously worked with Mr. Pierce at the Denver VA in 2006, and she complained of having been subjected to sexual harassment, including inappropriate comments and touching, by Mr. Pierce as well. When she learned that Mr. Pierce was returning to Denver, she told Rename Murphy (Assistant Manager), “You are bringing a predator back on this station,” and continuing, “If you bring him [Mr. Pierce] back on this station, the same thing is going to happen.”
  • Similarly, another female employee was also supervised by Loren Pierce at the Denver VA in 2006, and she too experienced sexual harassment by Mr. Pierce, including repeated inappropriate and offensive comments.
  • When Mr. Pierce returned to the Denver VA in December 2011, he admitted to one of the female employees that he had “a couple of complaints against him for sexual harassment,” and that when he was transferred back from the office in Albuquerque, Kathryn Malin (Service Center Manager) told him that the Denver office was, “not his personal playground,” and to, “chill out and stay in his office if he couldn’t behave himself.”
  • Moreover, when Plaintiff informed one of her co-workers of the harassment she endured from Mr. Pierce during her evaluation, the co-worker also stated that Mr. Pierce had asked her out for drinks, and had also sent her graphic sexual images via text messaging.
  • From March 2012 through February 24, 2013, Mr. Pierce was seen periodically rummaging around in Plaintiff’s cubicle while apparently sniffing the air in an attempt to smell her.
  • At some point between April 2012 and July 2012, Loren Pierce commented to Plaintiff that she should not wear her iPod tucked into her bra because it, “made her nipples look square,” and was “unattractive.”
  • Around that same time, Mr. Pierce told Plaintiff that he, “only had one ball.”
  • In October 2012, Mr. Pierce told Plaintiff that he was going on a cruise and was hoping to meet a female to take with him; otherwise he would look for a date while on the cruise.
  • After returning from his vacation cruise in January 2013, Mr. Pierce told Plaintiff that he had a one night stand while on the cruise, adding that his sexual partner was a “squirter” and that she soaked his bed, adding that he was disgusted by the woman and told her he did not want to sleep with her anymore.
  • On February 8, 2013, Mr. Pierce massaged Plaintiff’s shoulders and neck telling her, “they should not drink together,” while insinuating that he would be unable to control himself around her.
  • Plaintiff told one of her co-workers about Mr. Pierce’s comment and the co-worker stated that Mr. Pierce used to say the same thing to her stating, “We should go out for drinks. And then he would say, oh, you know what, this might be a bad idea, because you know, with a few drinks it could turn into something else.”
  • Three female co-workers all agreed with Plaintiff that they were afraid to tell Ms. Malin about Mr. Pierce’s behavior because the two were close friends and Ms. Malin would protect him, as she had done in the past. One co-worker also noted that Plaintiff was afraid of retaliation from management if she complained.
  • Despite her retaliation concerns, Plaintiff reported the inappropriate physical touching and the “squirter” comment to Ms. Erickson who finally decided to report the allegations.
  • On February 22, 2013, following her latest complaint, and almost a year after her first complaint, Plaintiff was transferred to the fifth floor and assigned a new supervisor, Crystal Reimonenq (Coach, Special Operations & Non-Rating).
  • On February 26, 2013, Plaintiff was interviewed by the Denver VA for a factfinding investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. Pierce.
  • On February 28, 2013, the Denver VA issued a Report of Facts and Findings which was sent to Ms. Murphy, wherein Mr. Pierce admitted to verbal sexual harassment and said he was, “very sorry about his inappropriate comments,” and admitted to physical sexual harassment
  • stating that he was, “aware that it was not appropriate behavior and he is very sorry for the inappropriate physical conduct.”
  • The Report of Facts and Findings also states that, “in the future, Mr. Pierce should refrain from unwanted/unsolicited contact while in the office, especially with his employees,” continuing that the appropriate response to these substantiated claims and admissions was, “additional training,” for Mr. Pierce.
  • Also on February 28, 2013, Mr. Thomas Conley, Super Senior Veterans Service Representative, e-mailed Plaintiff stating, “We have a sexual predator in this building, and senior management knows about it, and does nothing about it.” Plaintiff responded that she was considering an EEOC complaint against Loren Pierce.
  • Mr. Conley encouraged her stating, “This man never should have been allowed to return, yet Kathy [Malin] made it happen … Worst of all, you never should have had to go through such a thing. No woman, or man, should be forced to deal with such treatment.”
  • On March 11, 2013, Joseph Birge, the former Union President came to Plaintiff’s cubicle and told her that her career was over, stating that “Loren [Mr. Pierce] has been protected by management for all these years and there will be retaliation,” apparently for Plaintiff having reported Mr. Pierce’s inappropriate and offensive behavior.
  • Following those comments, Plaintiff began to cry and Ms. Reimonenq stopped by her desk to provide comfort. Plaintiff explained the situation and Ms. Reimonenq said that Plaintiff should listen to Mr. Birge, insinuating that she agreed there would be retaliation for Plaintiff’s complaints.
  • On March 13, 2013, Mr. Birge handed Plaintiff a printed letter addressed to her and three other female employees. The letter stated, “You have a manager with a history of sexual abuse to female employees. This individual has had constant trouble with the union in Albuquerque. He asked to be transferred back to here and is back to his ‘old’ ways.”
  • Mr. Birge’s letter continues, “History has shown that we had other managers filed against and they are being ‘slapped on the hands,’ going through ‘training’ and being placed right back into their position(s).” Plaintiff copied the letter and gave it to Ms. Reimonenq, who provided the letter to Ms. Malin and Ms. Murphy.
  • On March 15, 2013, Ms. Murphy called a meeting with Plaintiff and three of her female co-workers wherein she asked questions about Mr. Pierce’s behavior.
  • Mr. William Kane (Director) contacted Plaintiff on March 19, 2013, and stated that “this type of thing happened all the time but he had zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” and would request an Administrative Investigative Board because the situation was, “bigger than he
  • first realized.”
  • On March 22, 2013, Plaintiff choose to pursue her remedies under the statutory procedure, contacted the Office of Resolution Management (hereinafter “ORM”), and began informal counseling with the Equal Employment Opportunity (hereinafter “EEO”) office by contacting Letty Dominguez (EEO Specialist, Office of Resolution Management).
  • On March 26, 2013, Plaintiff was interviewed by an Administrative Investigative Board (hereinafter “AIB”) for her allegations of unprofessional conduct/behavior and sexual harassment against Mr. Pierce. The AIB took sworn testimony from Plaintiff and 12 other witnesses.
  • One female employee testified that Mr. Pierce removed his shirt to show her his tattoo which she describes as a, “naked woman with a thong on…with her boobs sticking out.” She also testified that she believed Ms. Malin and Mr. Pierce were friends, and that Ms. Malin was protecting him.
  • Mr. Pierce stated that Plaintiff “led him down a path of being open,” and when the pair talked, “all his filters went away,” as justification for his highly inappropriate behavior.
  • The AIB substantiated the allegations of unprofessional conduct/behavior and/or language in the workplace against Loren Pierce. However, the AIB curiously found that the allegations of sexual harassment were not ultimately substantiated because the multiple women reporting sexual harassment allegedly did not report their concerns frequently enough to management, and did not have sufficient witnesses to Mr. Pierce’s conduct.
  • On March 28, 2014, Mary Markey (Assistant Veterans Service Center Manger) and Mr. Pierce’s immediate supervisor called Plaintiff and discussed that she was upset that Plaintiff told Greg Linnert (Coach) that Mr. Pierce was “inappropriate,” and asked Plaintiff to respect Mr. Pierce’s privacy.
  • The EEO’s informal counseling was closed in Plaintiff’s matter on June 20, 2013, and Plaintiff was allowed 15 days thereafter to file a formal complaint. Plaintiff filed a Formal Complaint for discrimination, hostile work environment, and sexual harassment on June 27, 2013.
  • On August 5, 2013, Mr. Pierce was demoted to a Senior Veterans Service Representative for improper conduct in the workplace, but upon information and belief, the demotion was by way of his revised title only, as Mr. Pierce retained his grade level and pay scale even after the demotion.
  • Further, while Plaintiff was told to stay off Mr. Pierce’s floor, and was afraid to even enter the elevator for fear of seeing the perpetrator, Mr. Pierce was given free rein of the building.
  • Also in August 2013, Burt Malin (Loan Guarantee Services), Management and Ms. Malin’s husband stated that Denver VA management was suddenly, “sure something was going on” between Plaintiff and Mr. Pierce, insinuating a romantic relationship between the two and that her complaints were nothing more than a scorned ex-lover trying to seek revenge.
  • Following her June 27, 2013 Formal Complaint, Plaintiff began to experience retaliation.
  • On October 23, 2013, at 8:31 a.m., Ms. Reimonenq e-mailed Plaintiff that she was required to be in the same room with Mr. Pierce for training unless she provided a written agreement between herself and the Veterans Service Center which stated that she was never allowed to return to the fourth floor.
  • Plaintiff responded by reminding Ms. Reimonenq of her problems with Mr. Pierce, as discussed with her in March 2013, and informing Ms. Reimonenq of Plaintiff’s formal EEO complaint and pending lawsuit.
  • Even after the explanation on October 23, 2013, at 10:45 a.m., Ms. Reimonenq stated to Plaintiff that if she needed to be excused from attending training with Mr. Pierce on the fourth floor that she would need an “accommodation request, restraining order, or something as to why you should be excused from all 4th floor activities.” Ms. Reimonenq also stated that the accommodation would have to be “approved by higher authority.”
  • Plaintiff was therefore required to attend trainings in the same room with the perpetrator and it was noted by her fellow employees how uncomfortable she was and how Mr. Pierce would leer at her during the trainings in a way that was suggestive of lascivious interest or sly and malicious intent.
  • On November 14, 2013, the ORM contacted Plaintiff and requested a 30 day extension to complete the investigation, thereby making the deadline January 23, 2014.
  • On November 18, 2013, Plaintiff was informed that Herbert Wilkins was assigned as the investigator on her case.
  • In December 2013, Plaintiff received the first negative comment of her entire career when she was falsely accused of having past due reports, although her Workload Management Report indicates that she has “0” late reports from December 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013.
  • In January 2014 and February 2014, Plaintiff continued being required to attend trainings in the same room with Mr. Pierce.
  • On January 13, 2014, Plaintiff began to feel ill at work and ended up passing out twice at her desk. Plaintiff went to the Veterans Outpatient Clinic and was placed on intravenous fluids.
  • When Plaintiff returned to her desk to collect her items, a co-worker offered to drive her home. The co-worker asked Ms. Reimonenq if she could take Plaintiff home and Ms. Reimonenq replied that she was not allowed to do so.
  • Without a ride, Plaintiff stayed at work for an additional two hours. At the end of the day, Plaintiff was forced to drive herself home, in direct contradiction of her doctor’s orders, and notwithstanding the fact that she had lost consciousness twice earlier in the day, of which Ms. Reimonenq was clearly aware.
  • Based on the above-stated incident and her supervisor’s conduct, Plaintiff amended her Formal Complaint on February 10, 2014, to include a claim for retaliation.
  • On March 12, 2014, Mr. Wilkins was replaced with a second investigator, Barbara Walter. On March 17, 2014, Plaintiff’s Formal Complaint was officially amended and the ORM extended the investigation deadline until 180 days from the last amendment or 360 days of the filing of the original complaint.
  • A third investigator, Bruce Cunningham, was assigned on March 19, 2014. Plaintiff completed an interview with Mr. Cunningham about her retaliation claim on March 24, 2014.
  • On May 2, 2014, Plaintiff received the Investigative File and Notice of Advisement of Rights which allowed her 10 days to request mediation and 30 days to request a Final Agency Decision (hereinafter “FAD”) in her matter. Plaintiff requested mediation with the Denver VA on May 12, 2014 within her allotted ten (10) day deadline. As the deadlines run concurrently, Plaintiff also requested a FAD on May 19, 2014 within the allowed 30 day deadline.
  • Shortly after requesting the FAD, Plaintiff was notified by Ray Sassano (Human Resources Specialist) that the Denver VA would not mediate with her because she had exercised her right to request a FAD.
  • Although the deadline requires that a FAD be issued within 60 days of request, Plaintiff’s FAD was received 161 days after the FAD request was made, or on October 27, 2014. The FAD found that Plaintiff failed to produce any evidence proving the Department subjected her to any unlawful, discriminatory sexual harassment because Plaintiff, despite repeated complaints, allegedly did not notify Mr. Pierce that his conduct was unwelcome.
  • Further, the FAD found, while ignoring all previous and contemporaneous reports of sexual harassment, that by placing Plaintiff on another floor than Mr. Pierce, the Denver VA acted promptly and appropriately to stop the harassment.
  • However, as recently as October 2014, Plaintiff was entering the building through the metal detector and was asked to remove her belt. As Plaintiff removed her article of clothing, she looked over to see Mr. Pierce leering at her while she undressed.
  • Plaintiff has suffered extreme emotional distress and physical illness as manifestations of the emotional distress stemming from the discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by the Denver VA.

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.

Lakewood VA lawsuit accuses Loren Pierce of sexual harassment
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