Harvard Staff Claims Retaliation by Management for Prior Sexual Assault Complaint
Cambridge, Mass. - An employee at the Harvard University Mail Services (HUMS) is claiming that management in her department is retaliating against her after she previously spoke out against alleged sexual harassment in her workplace.
Johany Pilar alleges that management is now “punishing” her due to the complaints she made against a colleague in 2012, and because she also claimed she was disciplined by management for making that initial complaint.
Around 30 demonstrators – and members of a number of groups including the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), the Student Labor Action Movement, the Industrial Workers of the World, UNITE HERE, and Black Rose – took part in a rally at the Smith Campus Center on Massachusetts Avenue on Friday in support of Pilar, and calling on the Harvard University administration to listen to her claims.
In an interview with Open Media Boston Pilar says she’s being treated unfairly now, “because I wouldn’t shut my mouth [about] the sexual harassment,” and added later that she wants “people to know what happened to me.”
Geoff Carens, a representative of HUCTW who’s helping Pilar with her grievances told Open Media Boston in an interview, “basically she was sexually harassed at work and when she complained about it management disciplined her.”
Carens explains that he helped organize a public campaign to support Pilar in 2012, and says it attracted a lot of publicity that contributed to HUMS management removing a disciplinary action against Pilar from her file, promoting her three salary grades, and restoring sick time to her.
He claims “this September or so [management] started harassing her again,” including one incident where “they had her in this enclosed space,” and “held the door so she couldn’t get out,” despite being aware that she has a panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
They also “recently just started harassing her about her time off” for doctor’s visits, says Carens, who claims management has been “demanding ridiculous amounts of documentation” for such visits, including one incident where her supervisor was “refusing” to believe she had an emergency dental appointment until she provided evidence to support her claim.
Carens claims that management has “just been pushing her around, giving her a hard time, and they’ve basically made the environment toxic for her,” which has “really traumatized her,” and because of that, he explains, “we’ve requested a transfer to an at least comparable position” within the university.
He claims that a former union member who “provided evidence to cut across her sexual harassment and retaliation claims” was later promoted and put in charge of Pilar, “so we feel he has a bias against her and she needs to be out of that department.”
Management has “tried to make her as unpopular as they can in the department,” telling “co-workers that she’s a troublemaker,” claims Carens.
He also claims that HUMS is a “racist department,” where Pilar has been referred to as an “embarrassing Latina.”
Given previous public demonstrations highlighting Pilar’s claims, Carens says, “you would think that they would look at this as a stain on the university’s reputation,” and “do something about this, but for whatever reason management backed them up time after time” with legal representation.
During the interview, Pilar says, “I try to deal with my health … for me to be OK, to be at work, to [get on] with my life, but they don’t let me, there’s always something,” and she claims that that management are often after her for one thing or another, which has made her “uncomfortable.”
“I hope Harvard people do something about it,” says Pilar, “because before it was me, and who’s [going] to be the next one,” adding that, “I hope it’s nobody,” and she says that she wants others to be “safe.”
She says that the university administration “can change the management,” and that “there are so many good people looking for a job.”
Open Media Boston contacted Harvard University for a press statement, but did not receive a response before the filing of this report.
Editor's Note (4/23/14): This article has been updated with the correct spelling of Johany Pilar's name.