A former employee is suing two Anne Arundel County state lawmakers who own a gym together, claiming one of the delegates fired her after she reported a coworker sexually harassed her.
Kimberly Kubas worked for 13 years at Rockwell Fitness, the Severna Park gym co-owned by Dels. Brian Chisholm, R-Pasadena, and Sid Saab, R-Crownsville. Chisholm and Saab bought the gym in September 2018 and run it through their limited liability company, 331B, LLC.
In August, Kubas filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Maryland Northern Division claiming Chisholm fired her after she reported a general manager at Rockwell, Devin Conway, had sexually harassed her over two years. Neither lawmaker is accused of sexual harassment in the complaint. Conway did not respond to attempts to reach him.
Kubas, a Severna Park resident, started at the gym in 2006 in the childcare department and later became a part-time administrative assistant handling book-keeping and other tasks.
“We’re not accusing Saab or Chisholm of sexual harassment, but certainly they’re aiding and abetting harassment by penalizing the person who’s bringing it to their attention and retaliating against them,” said Sundeep Hora, Kubas’ attorney from the Washington D.C. law firm Alderman, Devorsetz and Hora.
“If you have people who are in charge who are making the decision to fire you for making that complaint and support the harasser, how different are they from the actual harasser.”
The lawsuit claims Kubas told Chisholm in a June 2019 phone call, and later in an email, she had been sexually harassed by Conway during personal training sessions and at work. Kubas also disclosed a consensual sexual encounter with Conway in August 2017 after a get-together at a local bar.
Kubas approached the gym owners to make them aware of the harassment.
“And instead of rectifying the problem, they just chose to single out my client as being the problem and fire her for raising the issue,” Hora said.
Chisholm and Saab are represented by attorneys Terry L. Beeman, Jr. and Jason C. Buckel. Buckel is also a Republican member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing Allegany County.
Buckel said his clients plan to argue that Kubas was fired because she violated company policy for filling out timesheets incorrectly and working from home when she wasn’t supposed to be.
“The owners of 331B have no intentions of paying an exorbitant settlement for doing nothing wrong,” Buckel said in an interview Friday afternoon.
In her complaint, Kubas said she was given permission to work from home by Chisholm and that timesheet issues were common and often easily resolved.
Chisholm said in a message: “We have full faith in the legal justice system.” He declined to comment further.
Saab did not return a request for comment.
Kubas filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hora said Kubas’ case came to his firm through the Times Up Legal Defense Fund, which was set up in 2018 to help victims of sexual harassment following sexual assault and harassment charges against movie executive Harvey Weinstein and dozens of other famous men.
The lawsuit was referred to a magistrate judge in October.
Kubas’ complaint stems from a series of incidents that began approximately in fall 2016 when she joined a group personal training session at the gym taught by Conway, who then served as personal training director at the gym.
During those sessions, Conway “repeatedly sexually harassed” Kubas, calling her “hot buns,” asking her to “bend over so he could enjoy the view of her posterior” and “[simulating] masturbation using the gym’s exercise ropes,” the complaint alleges.
Over the next two years, Conway’s behavior persisted, including instances when he would deliberately collide with her to rub against her and twice locking the door to her office and groped her breasts, according to the complaint. The complaint also states that Conway harassed other women who worked at the gym.
“Ms. Kubas asked him to stop in both instances,” the complaint read. “Conway’s behavior made Ms. Kubas nervous and uncomfortable, but she feared reporting him.”
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Conway stopped harassing Kubas in April 2019, according to the complaint. At a work event in May, Kubas shared her experiences with another employee who had similarly felt uncomfortable around Conway.
Later that employee shared Kubas’ complaints with Conway, who became “standoffish and hostile,” according to the complaint.
After Kubas met with Conway to clear the air, he “demanded that I keep it all a secret ... and to sweep it under the rug,” she wrote in an email to Chisholm and Saab in June 2019, days before she was fired.
Buckel said his clients “believed they had resolved the situation to everyone’s satisfaction” after speaking with other female employees who said Conway’s behavior was normal. The complaint stated that Chisholm “conducted an investigation and found Mr. Conway to be a ‘stand-up guy.’”
On June 21, 2019, Kubas was summoned to the gym and fired by Chisholm, who said she and another employee “were a cancer on his business and starting to make him look bad and that he could not have that,” according to the complaint.
Hora said Kubas is seeking damages, including lost pay and non-economic damages for her pain and suffering. Since her dismissal, she has had difficulty finding employment in part because of a lack of childcare options similar to what Rockwell had offered, he said.
The case is currently in the discovery phase, and witness depositions will be scheduled soon, Hora said.