Advertisement
News

Harassment case nears hearing

The state Human Relations Commission says Hunt Valley businessman Eugen Williamson sexually harassed nearly every woman who worked in his Westminster office.

The commission will prosecute Mr. Williamson at a hearing that begins tomorrow before Administrative Law Judge Melanie A. Vaughn in Westminster. The charges are based on the complaints two former employees filed in 1989, shortly after one quit and the other was fired.

Advertisement

Denise Livesay and May Muller, both of Westminster, say Mr. Williamson repeatedly touched them without consent, joked about sexual favors when they asked him for a raise, used an obscenity to refer to them and committed other offenses.

"This is one of the most egregious cases of sexual harassment I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot," said Lee Hoshall, an assistant general counsel who has worked for the commission for nine years. "He harassed almost every female who worked for him, verbally and physically."

Advertisement

Mr. Williamson is president and owner of Westminster Woodwork and Lumber Co. Inc. at Cranberry Industrial Center in Westminster. He has not responded to several calls and visits from The Sun.

Mr. Hoshall said the man has not responded to the Human Relations Commission charges he was served with and is no longer accepting mail the commission sends him.

The commission receives civil rights complaints, and if initial attempts to mediate the dispute fail, it has the authority to bring charges before an administrative law judge. Either party may appeal the judge's decision to the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Previous charges

Although apparently a successful businessman for many years, he also faces other lawsuits and judgments for unpaid bills and taxes.

This is not the first time Mr. Williamson has been in legal trouble with women who worked for him.

Ms. Livesay said he fired her because of her repeated complaints to him about his behavior and her refusal to testify for him when another woman filed criminal sexual offense charges.

"He told me I was a 'bad apple,' " Ms. Livesay said.

Advertisement

In October 1989, Mr. Williamson was found guilty and fined $350 by Judge Francis M. Arnold in Carroll District Court on two counts of fourth-degree sex offense against another female employee for touching her on the thighs and breast without her consent in June 1989.

Ms. Livesay estimated that a dozen female employees came and went during the two years she worked for Mr. Williamson, some quitting after only a few days because of Mr. Williamson's behavior.

The charges she filed say Mr. Williamson preferred to hire only young, physically attractive women and said as much.

"He does not want women who are 'ugly, stupid or fat,' " Ms. Livesay's complaint says.

Five other women who worked for Mr. Williamson are being subpoenaed to testify against their former boss, Mr. Hoshall said. They also were harassed, he said.

Ms. Livesay and Ms. Muller complained that when they and other women asked for raises, Mr. Williamson jokingly told them to "get under the desk" or "get on your knees" to perform a sexual act.

Advertisement

Ms. Livesay's complaint says that as she sat on the floor filing papers one day, Mr. Williamson stood in front of her face and moved his pelvis back and forth.

Ms. Livesay, who now works as a secretary and bookkeeper for another company outside Carroll County, worked for Mr. Williamson for two years. A single mother who had just moved to Carroll County, she did not quit, she said, because she needed the $7-an-hour job.

"I felt trapped," she said.

When he fired her, she said, he told her she was causing other women in the office to think he was "a pervert."

She said she was in her mid-30s, while other women in the office were much younger. They started going to her for support, saying he did the same things to them, she said. "There were about six or seven of us who went to the lawyer [after I was fired]," she said.

Seeking back pay

Advertisement

The Human Relations Commission can seek no more than about $3,000 for Ms. Livesay, because state law allows only recovery of lost wages and no punitive damages.

But Mr. Hoshall is asking the judge to require Mr. Williamson to draft a sexual harassment policy and undergo "professional counseling to modify his sexually harassing behavior and to foster appropriate interaction with, and treatment of, female employees."

"He was the chief executive officer and completely in charge of all the working conditions," Mr. Hoshall said. "This means there is no one to complain to. He is it."

The status of Westminster Woodwork and Lumber is hazy, and its telephones are disconnected.

When surveyed in October by the county's economic development office, the 10-year-old company employed 20 people and specialized in custom-designed architectural woodwork, cabinets and bank counters.

A reporter visited Mr. Williamson's rambling brick house on Brook Farm Court in Hunt Valley but got no farther than the intercom at the wrought iron front gate. A woman who identified herself as the nanny said through the intercom that he was not at home.

Advertisement

The Internal Revenue Service has a lien on his property for a total of $95,106 in unpaid income taxes over three years. The lien was filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court Jan. 27.

Several companies that supplied him with materials and labor sued him in Carroll District Court between March 1993 and February, saying he failed to pay bills.

In two cases, Judge Donald M. Smith found Mr. Williamson liable for a total of $11,384.44. In at least two other cases, court records indicate that process servers were unable to find him.

None of the suits lists a lawyer for Mr. Williamson.

But the documents in the suit indicate plaintiffs have had trouble finding Mr. Williamson to serve him with summonses to court. Mr. Hoshall said he has had similar problems.

Mr. Hoshall said Mr. Williamson has evaded the commission in its attempts to get him to respond to the charges and provide documents, although he did allow an investigator to visit the office. He believes Mr. Williamson is operating his business from a barn behind his home, where a process server for the commission found him, served him, and saw what he believed to be employees.

Advertisement

Neither Mr. Williamson nor any lawyer representing him attended a pre-hearing conference March 29 to set a date for the hearing. Mr. Hoshall said he will prosecute the case whether Mr. $l Williamson shows up or not.

Ms. Livesay said she was frustrated that it has taken four years to prosecute Mr. Williamson. Because she found a new job shortly after she was fired, the wait is to collect little more than $3,000 in back pay.

"But I do want to go through with this," she said. "I don't want to let him get away with it."

Ms. Muller may collect no money, because she wasn't fired and she went on to a job that paid more, Mr. Hoshall said.

Mr. Hoshall said the four-year wait was due in part to short staffing at the commission, but also because Ms. Livesay's case had to be amended for technical reasons. He is more dismayed, he said, at how little they can collect.

"This kind of case is an excellent example of how inadequate the state law is," Mr. Hoshall said.


Advertisement