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‘I spent many years suffering.’ Women in Fresno allege sexual harassment at janitorial company

Women describe sexual harassment experiences at ABM Industries

Two women broke silence about their alleged sexual harassment experiences at the hands of their supervisor at ABM Industries in Fresno on Feb. 13, 2019.
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Two women broke silence about their alleged sexual harassment experiences at the hands of their supervisor at ABM Industries in Fresno on Feb. 13, 2019.

Two women in Fresno on Wednesday broke their silence about their alleged sexual harassment experiences at the hands of their supervisor at ABM Industries.

ABM is a national janitorial company with a history of multiple lawsuits, settlements and workplace complaints related to sexual harassment.

Equal Rights Advocates, a civil rights organization, filed a lawsuit against ABM Industries, Inc., ABM Janitorial Services, Inc., ABM Onsite Services West, Merchants Building Maintenance Company, and two male supervisors.

The suit is on behalf of three women, two of which spoke during a press conference in front of the B. F. Sisk Courthouse in Fresno County.

The case was filed Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court. Attorneys Charles Trudrung Taylor and Alma Montenegro from Fresno law firm Lang, Robert & Patch are also representing the plaintiffs in the suit.

Efforts to reach ABM Industries on Wednesday were unsuccessful. The local offices were closed in March after the three women filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to Equal Rights Advocates.

One of the alleged victims, Araceli Sanchez, 33, worked for ABM from 2003 to 2017. Sanchez said she experienced sexual harassment from her supervisor.

“I suffered a lot with the person who I worked with — my supervisor,” she said through a translator. “He harassed me, he touched me, he said things to me verbally. He made me suffer a lot. I didn’t know what to do because he said that if I said anything no one would believe me because he was the boss and I just was a worker.”

The lawsuit seeks damages and restitution over the failure to prevent harassment and discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, sexual battery, gender violence, blacklisting and several workplace violations, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit says one male supervisor began sexually harassing Sanchez around 2004. According to the lawsuit, the supervisor made lewd comments to Sanchez about her buttocks. She said he brought pornographic magazines to work, and often watched pornographic videos in her presence.

According to the lawsuit, he exposed himself to Sanchez and demanded that she perform oral sex. In 2014, the supervisor allegedly attempted to rape her, the suit says.

“I felt like trash,” she said Wednesday. “He made me feel like trash when he treated me this way. I spent many years suffering, but here I am today.”

Another alleged victim, Maria Paramo, 39, worked for the company from 2007 to 2017.

Paramo said she was also subjected to verbal and physical abuse by the same supervisor.

“He would threaten us,” she said through an interpreter. “He would tell us that no one would believe us if we said anything, and even more, he would threaten that if we tried to say anything, that if we reported him or anything like that, that he would report us — that he would get us in trouble for doing that.”

Paramo said said believes others may also have been harassed who have not come forward.

“I know there are a lot of other women and men who are out there who are suffering in silence, who are hiding in the shadows out of fear,” she said.

Equal Rights Advocate legal director and attorney Jennifer A. Reisch said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of “three amazing and brave women.”

“These women are breaking the silence about the violence that they experienced at work,” she said. “They are speaking out against these horrors ... because they don’t want anyone else to go through what they went through.”

Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.


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