Fired SEPTA worker sues for retaliatory discharge relating to sexual harassment complaints

By Jon Campisi | Nov 26, 2012

A woman who claims she was fired from her longtime job with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the mass transit agency.

Delaware resident Michelle Precia Jones filed suit last week against SEPTA and Alfred Outlaw, who is identified as a supervisor in the agency’s Revenue Operations Department.

The lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 23 at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by attorney Olugbenga O. Abiona, asserts that the plaintiff’s employment was terminated in late February of last year in retaliation for Jones speaking out about incidents of sexual harassment allegedly at the hands of Outlaw, whom the plaintiff began reporting to after Outlaw became supervisor of the Revenue Operations Department in 2001.

Jones began her employment with SEPTA back in May 1988 as a secretary with the agency’s Planning and Construction Department, took a brief employment hiatus in 2000, and then returned to work in 2001, about the same time Outlaw began his supervisory role, according to the complaint.

Jones’ husband, Rodney Jones, had also worked for SEPTA, but died in 1997 after being struck by a train while on duty, the lawsuit shows.

The suit says that Outlaw treated the four male employees under his supervision differently than he treated his female workers, one of whom was the plaintiff.

One example of favorable treatment offered in the complaint was that Outlaw would give his male subordinates comp time if they worked overtime, even though it went against SEPTA policy, although he would not do the same for the female employees.

The suit also states that Jones was in charge of handling the payroll for Outlaw and other managers, and that beginning in about 2009, when Outlaw was demoted, Jones stopped handling Outlaw’s time records.

It was also around this time that Outlaw began making numerous unwanted sexual comments and advances toward the plaintiff, the lawsuit alleges.

Outlaw would also ask for things like back massages, the suit states, and the plaintiff would carry out the request for fear of reprisal.

Jones took medical leave from August 15, 2010, until November 17 of that year due to a sciatic nerve injury, the complaint shows, and soon after returning to work Jones was suspended by Outlaw over accusations that Jones forged signatures on time sheets.

In early December 2010, the complaint alleges, Jones complained to SEPTA higher-ups about the discriminatory treatment and sexual harassment on the part of Outlaw, after which Jones was instructed to file a formal complaint against the man.

After the filing of the complaint, Jones never received any response from SEPTA as to the nature of the investigation of her complaint or its outcome, the lawsuit claims.

Jones was fired from her job more than two months later.

“Plaintiff asserts that the harassment by Defendants because of her gender was pervasive and regular,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiff asserts that Defendants subjected her to retaliatory action because she engaged in protected activities under federal and state statutes.”

The suit alleges that Jones has experienced stress, emotional distress, migraine headaches, insomnia, anxiety and fear because of the harassment and the ensuing actions on the part of SEPTA.

Jones claims her termination was retaliatory in nature and had to do with her complaining about mistreatment.

The lawsuit contains counts of gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

Jones seeks damages in excess of $100,000, attorney’s fees and expert witness fees.

She also seeks to have a trial by jury.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-06582-WY.

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