Trane Manager’s Sexually Explicit Ringtone Spurs Harassment Suit (1)

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By Patrick Dorrian

A Trane supervisor intentionally subjected a supplier engineer to his sexually explicit mobile phone ringtone and the company did nothing to stop the harassment despite repeated complaints, Audrey Arrindell alleges in a federal lawsuit.

Arrindell says Bill Kennedy began playing a ringtone on his phone that mimicked the sound of a woman having an orgasm, soon after he became her immediate supervisor in March 2016. She told him she found it offensive, but Kennedy kept playing the ringtone and also tried to engage her in sex talk, Arrindell alleges in a lawsuit filed March 9 in federal court in Memphis, Tenn.

The case is a reminder that an employer’s obligation to provide a workplace free of sexual harassment may extend to devices and gadgets and how they’re used. And an employer’s response to harassment or other bias complaints may draw retaliation charges if the complaining employee believes the response was inadequate or misdirected.

“We cannot comment on pending litigation,” a spokeswoman for Ingersoll Rand, which also was named in the lawsuit, told Bloomberg Law in a March 12 email. Trane is an Ingersoll Rand subsidiary.

Put Off by HR, Employee Charges

A Trane human resources representative kept putting Arrindell off after she began complaining about Kennedy and no investigation was ever conducted, Arrindell says. But Kennedy did respond, she said. He reduced her engineering role and responsibilities and ordered her to perform non-engineering work outside her job scope, including daily work in the warehouse.

Kennedy also began talking over her during staff meetings and intentionally avoiding any personal conversations with her, Arrindell says. He additionally prepared a retaliatory and incorrect review of her job performance and put her on a bogus performance improvement plan that was reversed by HR, Arrindell says.

HR later put Arrindell under a new supervisor from a different department who wasn’t an engineer, the lawsuit says. She was also put back on the same PIP on which Kennedy had tried to place her, Arrindell says, and the new supervisor had to consult Kennedy about her performance because, as a non-engineer, she didn’t understand the scope of Arrindell’s work, the lawsuit says.

The mistreatment resulted in Arrindell being stripped of leadership roles in several internal and external corporate organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers, before being terminated in September 2016, according to the lawsuit.

The case is Arrindell v. Trane U.S., Inc., W.D. Tenn., No. 2:18-cv-02164, complaint filed 3/9/18.

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