ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - The City of St. Louis is being sued by a former Refuse Division employee, and paid a hefty settlement to another woman, who both claim the same boss sexually harassed them and management turned a blind eye.
The first lawsuit was filed in February 2021. The woman in that case was hired in 2020 and fired less than two months later.
"She started experiencing requests for sexual favors, offensive comments, offensive touching," explained the woman's lawyer, Veronica Johnson.
In the suit, the woman claimed her boss, Refuse Foreman Roger Gladney, fired her out of retaliation.
"She had objected to his sexual requests and then was fired," Johnson said. "Nobody would do anything to protect her."
In the lawsuit, the woman claimed Gladney "made unwelcome sexual advances." The suit goes on to say Gladney had a sex toy in his office that he once pointed to and told the woman "get your assignment." According to the lawsuit, it was to the point the woman "avoided being alone in his [Gladney's] office" or "his [Gladney's] work truck."
"She is still traumatized by what happened to her," Johnson explained. "It was humiliating, it was happening in front of her coworkers, most of whom were men. At least one of these men told her it happened before."
The case didn't stay in court. In July 2021, the woman and city reached a settlement. According to that agreement, the city paid the woman $325,000. Gladney doesn't agree with the outcome.
"These are bogus comments against me, the city didn't treat me right," Gladney said.
During an interview with News 4 Investigates, Gladney pointed back to the claim in the lawsuit about a sex toy. He said he doesn't know who, but someone put it in his office when he wasn't there.
"I don't play this excuse my french ******* so I picked it up with a paper towel and threw it in the trash," Gladney said.
The second lawsuit was filed in August 2021. In that case, the woman sued for sexual harassment and retaliation.
"The sheriff knocked on my door and gave me that bogus *** subpoena," Gladney said.
According to the lawsuit, the woman said Gladney asked her to "go with him to a hotel" to "walk around the room naked." Gladney called that untrue.
"I'm not going to spend that type of money to take no woman to a hotel just to tell her walk around and look at you naked. Are you kidding me?" Gladney said.
The woman in the second lawsuit worked for the city three years ago. Gladney questioned why she waited years to sue.
"Come on now. When someone is sexually harassing you, you want to get that right away, you want to nip it in the bud," Gladney added.
As the second lawsuit heads to court, Gladney said he'll represent himself. He already filed a response in the case, writing "not guilty of anything."
"I don't have no money, what am I to do? Who's gonna help me, can somebody help me? Prove my innocence, please," Gladney said.
While the two cases happened years apart, there's a notable similarity. Both women said they told multiple supervisors about the alleged sexual harassment and none took action.
News 4 Investigates reached out to the Refuse Division supervisors named in the lawsuit. All declined to comment and referred back to city hall. The Mayor's office also turned down an interview. A city spokesman instead sent a statement saying the city doesn't tolerate sexual harassment.
Johnson said that wasn't her client's experience while she worked for the city.
"Nobody at any level said, 'Hey we've got to stop and do an investigation,'" she said.
News 4 Investigates asked the city if anyone was disciplined in either case, but never got an answer outside this statement from St. Louis Director of Operations Nancy Cross:
"The City of St. Louis has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. The City of St. Louis no longer employs Mr. Gladney, and the City Counselor's Office has declined to represent him in this second lawsuit."
According to the St. Louis City website, Gladney retired in August 2021. He told News 4 Investigates that is not the full picture and that he was forced out around the same time the first lawsuit settled.
"He comes in and said, 'You're on administrative leave, pending further investigation.' I said, 'To what?' He said, 'I don't want to talk about it. It's just best for you to retire,'" Gladney said, referring to a conversation with one of his supervisors. "What I'm really hurt about is no one tried to defend me, 21 damn years and they tell me it's best for you to retire."
While Johnson never had to argue her case in court, she believes it's time for the refuse division to focus on picking up itself.
"When you see something as bad as this was, it indicates that not only has this been going on for an extended time, but there's also a systemic failure," Johnson said. "In other words, this person is doing it, but everyone else is looking the other way."
As part of the settlement in the first lawsuit, the city agreed to add annual sexual harassment training for all refuse employees. That includes training on appropriate behavior and how to report complaints.