‘No workplace is immune’ to harassment, says former state worker behind tort claim
A woman who worked as a baker on Boise State University’s campus is suing the school’s food contractor, saying it subjected women to a “sexually hostile working environment.”
Brandi Kissack filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Aramark — a company that runs food services for Boise State and many other universities. Among her claims are that staff and managers made sexual comments and requests to female employees.
The allegations echo claims made by Kissack and other former Aramark employees in a story published in fall 2017 by The Arbiter, Boise State’s student newspaper. One employee said that in the workplace, “harassment towards women is totally OK, and standing up for yourself as a woman to a man ... is looked down upon,” according to the story.
An Aramark spokesperson did not immediately respond to messages Monday afternoon.
“I can assure you that we do not tolerate bias or harassment of any kind,” an Aramark spokeswoman told The Arbiter in fall 2017, according to the newspaper.
Lawyer: Sexual harassment ‘constant, nonstop’
Kissack was a baker for the catering department at the university from August 2015 to August 2017.
She claims in the lawsuit that a manager asked her to send him nude photos of herself and made several sexual comments to her. Other male employees also made sexual comments, the lawsuit says.
Kissack claims that she was retaliated against after filing a complaint, and denied promotions and raises.
Kissack’s attorney, Dan Williams of Jones Williams Fuhrman Gourley in Boise, told the Statesman on Monday that the alleged sexual harassment was “constant, nonstop” as opposed to “isolated comments here or there.”
Lawsuit: Women mistreated
The lawsuit claims that a manager described his sex life with his wife to Kissack, and told her about the sex act he wanted to perform on his friend’s wife. He told Kissack “that another female employee ‘wasn’t his type’ because he preferred ‘real women’ like (Kissack),“ and told her which body parts he favored, the lawsuit says.
One of Kissack’s co-workers would comment “regularly” about wanting to “have a piece of that,” in reference to women who worked at Aramark or students who dined at Boise State, the lawsuit says.
Kissick complained to an Aramark director in February 2016 and was told to “put your big girl panties on,” the lawsuit says. Several months later, Kissack filed an anonymous complaint to Aramark; instead of investigating the claims, managers “began harassing (her) based on her complaint,” the lawsuit says.
Kissack emailed an Aramark district manager for Boise State in August 2017, describing the “high turnover ... low morale among females and her concerns for other employees” at Aramark — as well as her general concern about how women were treated in the workplace there, the suit says.
That same month, a male employee yelled at two female employees and called them “offensive and derogatory names” — and was then “pleaded with” to stay in his job when he tried to give notice, the lawsuit says.
At the time Kissack was working there, Aramark had about 410 employees working at Boise State, according to the lawsuit.
Boise State: Aramark says it has addressed concerns
A spokesman for Boise State said Wednesday that the university had no comment on the lawsuit. (The school is not a defendant; only Aramark is being sued.)
But the school did find out about Kissack’s complaints in 2017 and asked Aramark’s human resources director to contact her and investigate her complaints, spokesman Greg Hahn said.
Boise State also did its own investigation into similar complaints by a student worker, he said.
“Aramark, at that time, provided the university with assurances that the workplace concerns would be addressed through better training and other methods, and improved,” Hahn said. “Company officials have reported to Boise State that these changes remain in place.”