Former housekeeper alleges sexual harassment in suit against American Cancer Society

By Jon Campisi | Aug 20, 2013

A former housekeeper for an American Cancer Society run residential facility has filed a civil suit against the organization contending that she was fired from her job of five months for voicing complaints about sexual harassment and disparaging treatment.

Natasha Dockery, who resides in Sharon Hill, Delaware County, is suing the American Cancer Society and its East Central Division over her August 2011 termination, which she claims was done in retaliation for her complaining about inappropriate treatment by a supervisor.

Dockery, who worked four days per week for between four and five hours per day at the Hope Lodge, a place of free lodging for cancer patients who have to travel more than 45 miles for cancer treatment, claims that she suffered sexual harassment at the hands of Byron Barksdale, the manager of the facility, which is located in Cheltenham, Montgomery County.

The lawsuit alleges that Barksdale would have sexually explicit conversations within the plaintiff’s presence, get into sexually explicit details about his personal life, show the plaintiff inappropriate pictures of his ex-girlfriend in provocative poses and skimpy clothing, and call Dockery on her cell phone while she was off work to discuss inappropriate content.

The complaint says that the plaintiff first registered complaints about the treatment to the defendant in early July 2011.

A representative of the organization subsequently informed Dockery that the details in the complaint were not considered sexual harassment, but that the defendant would nonetheless instruct Barksdale to stay away from the plaintiff, according to the civil action.

The defendant, the suit alleges, never fully investigated the plaintiff’s complaints, including speaking to and interviewing any of the other workers or volunteers at Hope Lodge about the matter.

Dockery soon had to report directly to Barksdale for her work assignments after her former supervisor left Hope Lodge, and on several occasions the plaintiff expressed to management her feelings of being “unsafe and fearful” around Barksdale, the suit states.

Dockery alleges that her workdays and hours were cut down significantly in the ensuing weeks, something that occurred after she quit her part time job at another employer.

The plaintiff’s work responsibilities were soon given away to other workers at Hope Lodge, the suit claims.

The complaint goes on to allege that Barksdale’s attitude toward and treatment of Dockery soon became hostile.

Barksdale also informed Dockery that she would not be qualified for a promotion to a weekend coordinator position.

The plaintiff was constructively discharged on Aug. 24, 2011.

The complaint contains counts of retaliation, discrimination and hostile work environment.

It accuses the defendant of violating the Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Dockery seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to attorney’s fees, expert fees, costs and other court relief.

The suit was filed on Aug. 19 at U.S. District Court by Philadelphia attorney Karin M. Gunter.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-04799-LDD.

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