Two University employees have accused their supervisor of sexual and verbal harassment -- and now they say the University has not responded to their complaints. Both Physical Plant housekeepers -- who have requested that they be referred to as "Spencer" and "Pita" in order to protect their identities and their jobs-- described incidents in vivid detail implicating their housekeeping manager, Paul Ross, in various examples of harassment. Ross refused to comment on any of the accusations made against him. Spencer, who began working for Ross in late August, said his problems began almost immediately. "Paul seems to single out people," Spencer said. He said the first hint of trouble came in September, when Ross made sexual remarks about Spencer's wife. "He said 'All I have to do is stick my 12-inch tongue down your wife's throat and she would never come home,' " Spencer said. "Paul doesn't have the right to degrade my wife in front of total strangers." Spencer added that Ross once came up behind him while he was cleaning and breathed on his neck, in a possible homosexual advance. Both Spencer and Pita complained that Ross would come up behind them without saying anything and stare at them intently until they turned around. "Especially when you're the opposite sex of the supervisor and you're in the bathroom, they're supposed to announce that they're coming in," Pita said. "He didn't." Pita said there have been several times when she would be bending down, cleaning a bathroom stall, and Ross would come up behind her and stand there until she turned around, only to find him staring at her. In addition, Pita said she has been the victim of verbal sexual harassment. Pita said Ross commented on the size of her breasts, saying that it was inappropriate for her to wear her housekeeping jacket open, despite the T-shirt she wore underneath. "He would tell me to button up my uniform and I asked him why once," she said. "He goes 'well, you could hurt somebody by looking like that' --Eand I got really upset." Pita also said she suspects Ross once stole money from her wallet when it was in her locker. And Spencer and Pita said these are only a few examples of what has become an on-going problem with Ross. Pita and Spencer went to their Teamsters Union Local 115 in February with grievances regarding Ross' behavior. "Nothing happened," Spencer said. "I was anxious to know why it is still being investigated [since] they interviewed everybody -- I wondered 'what more do they need?' " But the union's business agent, Ernie Harris, said the union is investigating the grievances but has no jurisdiction over Physical Plant management. He also said the investigation process takes time although it "usually gets done." With the help of their union shop stewards, Pita and Spencer also went to the University's Division of Human Resources and the Office of Affirmative Action. They said Human Resources has not responded to their complaints, although Affirmative Action officials were able to transfer Spencer to a different building in January. Representatives from both departments refused to comment on the allegations against Ross. They also would not confirm or deny that complaints had been filed. "The process takes time and it depends on a particular case," said Jeanne Howley, a University labor relations specialist. "The University takes any charge very seriously." Spencer said he fears that Ross is mentally unstable and could do something worse to those still working under him. And Pita, who still works for Ross, said she is "petrified," adding that the rape alarms on her floor do not work. "I dread coming to work because I never know what he's going to do next," she said. "Something should be done with him." Although Physical Plant Director James Wargo had not been notified about Spencer and Pita's situations, he said he would only have heard of them if the cases could not be worked out on a lower level. Wargo said a supervisor who harasses his employees faces a variety of punitive measures. "It could happen that the supervisor involved would have to apologize, they could be hurt financially, disciplined, given time off, up to and including discharge," he said. And Rick Buckley, building supervisor for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said he thought Ross should be fired if the charges are proven true. "He's supposed to show an example by being a manager," Buckley added. Spencer formerly worked the day shift for Buckley before personal matters forced him to switch to the night shift --Eand to the building where Ross works. He said he is much more relieved and relaxed now that he works in another campus building, far away from Ross. But Pita said she did not want to leave her current station, despite Ross' continual presence, because she "didn't do anything wrong." "And I am not going to quit because of some jerk," she said. Wargo said determining harassment is difficult because employees sometimes complain when a supervisor is "only making them do the work." Spencer's supervisors and those employed in the Towne Building where he formerly worked praised him. "He was the best worker and best housekeeper I ever saw," Buckley said. And Shelley Brown, assistant to the graduate chairperson of Systems Engineering, said Spencer did work beyond what his position required and was always honest, friendly and up-front.
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