Louisville Zoo Accused of Monkeying Around in Harassment Probe

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By Alex Ebert

The Louisville Zoo’s first female maintenance supervisor is alleging in a federal lawsuit that she was subjected to years of harassment that was ignored or covered up by her supervisors ( Butrum v. Louisville Zoo Foundation, Inc. , W.D. Ky., No. 3:17-CV-330, complaint filed 5/31/17 ).

A human resources report details how Racheal Butrum told her supervisors about repeated incidents of harassment by male maintenance workers, her May 31 complaint said. Management didn’t investigate several of the incidents and helped cover up the situation, Butrum alleges.

The harassment allegedly began as soon as she started work in 2014. It included text messages and verbal harassment regarding sex acts from her direct supervisor at the zoo, she said.

After weeks of this abuse and repeatedly asking the maintenance manager to stop, Butrum recorded his harassment and confronted him, according to the complaint. After being confronted, the manager immediately quit, but zoo management didn’t further investigate, the complaint alleges.

Later, male maintenance workers under Butrum refused to take directions from her. One said, “Women belong in two places, the bedroom or the kitchen. Nowhere else,” according to the complaint. Another threw a nail gun and a 30-pound piece of iron at her because she gave him orders. Other times, workers would leave a sign with the word “bitch” in her vehicle, and they put a half-naked mannequin wearing Butrum’s sunglasses in the maintenance building, she alleges.

Butrum, who still works for the zoo, is seeking $5 million in damages under state and federal law. She alleges the city violated whistle-blower and open records statutes by trying to cover up the situation. She cites alleged improper coordination between her supervisors and the city’s human resources department to minimize negative publicity about the allegations.

The zoo said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Josh Abner, spokesman for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, said his department is responding for the city but doesn’t comment on pending litigation, either.

Butrum is represented by Timothy Denison, a sole practitioner in Louisville, Ky. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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