Security guards at JFK ran a culture of routine sexual harassment and degradation of their female co-workers, according to a new lawsuit by a former security official there.
LaDonna Powell, a former supervisor with Allied Universal Security Services, is suing the company and multiple employees at Allied, alleging a campaign of hazing and sexual harassment during her four years with the company. Powell worked for Allied at JFK, a company that the Port Authority contracts with for their security needs, and claims that male supervisors inappropriately touched her, made lewd remarks about her body and in one case even ignored a rape complaint from one of her co-workers.
According to Powell's complaint, despite multiple promotions between 2012 and 2016, she was fired by one of her supervisors at Allied when she finally complained to a Port Authority official about her treatment at the airport. Powell claims that treatment included a superior making inappropriate comments about her body, brushing up and making unnecessary contact with her, and on one occasion telling her "since everyone already thinks we had sex, let's bend you over the table."
In addition to that alleged harassment, Powell claims that male supervisors would watch security guards have sex in security booths thanks to closed circuit television, and that supervisors showed off videos of female guards having sex with male superiors. In one instance, one of her supervisors allegedly showed Powell a video and asked her "Do you know how to give head like that?"
Powell's suit also contains a charge that after a work party in mid-2015, two employees from Allied sexually assaulted a security guard while driving her home, when one man held the woman down while the other man assaulted her. Powell says she told a trio of supervisors about the assault after she was informed of it, and they told her "there was nothing that they could do to investigate the alleged sexual assault of an employee after a work-sanctioned event."
"Allied’s decision to fire Ms. Powell after she complained about discrimination is textbook retaliation," Alanna Kaufman, an attorney representing Ms. Powell said in a statement. "Ms. Powell is someone who spoke up and sought change on behalf of herself and others. She was a star employee, and the fact that Allied fired her shows how deep the discriminatory culture runs."
Powell told NBC4 the atmosphere created by her supervisors at Allied was a "sex fest." Another one of Powell's attorneys, Elizabeth Saylor, told the channel, "these are security guards who are paid for by city and state money that are put there to protect people from terrorism and other threats. And inside of protecting people, instead of caring about people's safety, they're too busy watching sex shows, too busy harassing others."
Allied could not be reached for comment. A Port Authority spokesperson declined to comment on the suit, but noted that the Port Authority's Inspector General’s Office is reviewing the allegations in it.