By Kevin Hogencamp
A former Ecila Plantation worker has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that her supervisor subjected her to continuous sexual harassment, including demanding that she have sex with him to keep her job.
Betty Jean Butler also says that officials with the Maryland company that owns the plantation refused to correct the problem, telling her that she needed to learn to get along with her supervisor, Freddie Carlisle.
And after reporting the sexual harassment, Butler claims that she was retaliated against and ultimately fired because she sought to stop the unjust treatment.
The suit was filed June 25 in U.S. District Court; the defendants did not immediately respond. Butler claims that Carlisle’s harassment of her caused her to suffer migraines, extreme anxiety, weight loss, insomnia and stomach pain. She is seeking unspecified damages.
Butler was terminated Oct. 15, 2008 and received a “right to sue” notice from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on March 29, 2010. Her civil rights claim includes charges of unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation.
Ecila, at 911 Tallahassee Road in western Dougherty County, is owned by Clark Construction Group, Clark Enterprises and CEI Realty, all of Bethesda. Carlisle is a Dougherty County resident.
Butler says in her lawsuit that she was hired as office manager on March 2, 2002 and that her employment record reflects excellent performance. She says that Carlisle began victimizing her in 2003 by making sexual advances, degrading comments and harassing gestures.
“On one occasion, Mr. Carlisle told Mrs. Butler she needed to keep him ‘company’ in his hotel room during a business trip to defendants’ offices in Bethesda, Md. Mrs. Butler rejected these advances,” Butler says in the lawsuit. “On other occasions, Mr. Carlisle would instigate arguments with Mrs Butler, then want to ‘make up’ by hugging her. Mrs. Butler rejected these advances. Mrs. Butler did not welcome Mr. Carlisle’s advances, rejected them, and advised him that his behavior was unwelcome.”
The matter came to ahead on July 16, 2008, Butler said in the lawsuit, when she encountered a woman in a guesthouse at Ecila.
The suit says: “Mrs. Butler asked the female who had brought her to the guest house and the female responded that two men had brought her there and that she could not remember their names. There were alcohol containers and drug paraphernalia in the guest house and vomit in one of the trash cans in the guest house. The female informed Mrs. Butler that the drug paraphernalia belonged to the men that brought her to the guest house.”
Butler says the woman identified Carlisle as one of the men and that she had “partied” and had sex with Carlisle. Butler said she called police and notified the plantation’s management in Bethesda. She says that two days later, Carlisle told her that if she wanted to keep her job, Butler would need to start taking “lessons” from the woman at the guest house, “implying that Mrs. Butler would need to have sex with Mr. Carlisle in order to keep her job.”
Butler says she told Ecila’s management, who told instructed Butler to “get along” with Carlisle. She says that upon being terminated, she was told she was losing her job for failing to get along with Carlisle.
Ecila came under scrutiny in 2004 after its workers disturbed a Civil War-era cemetery near the plantation. In 2003, Ecila was among 16 plantations that paid a fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for illegally setting out chicken eggs laced with a pesticide to kill foxes, possums, coyotes and other animals that eat quail eggs.