San Tan Valley, AZ– George Johnson, owner of Johnson Utilities has been hit with a federal lawsuit in which a former employee alleges voter intimidation, sexual harassment and wrongful termination and is seeking $3 million in compensation.
Carrie Ribeiro began working for Johnson Utilities over four years ago, she worked her way up and in that short time she became a manager, performing a range of duties from office manager, human resources to public relations and webmaster. Ribeiro said she loved her job, but things started to change in 2011 and the job she once loved became hostile.
Ribeiro’s lawsuit states that George Johnson began to hone in on her appearance, often remarking on her appearance, lamenting that her skirts were not short enough. She began to feel uncomfortable at work and Johnson eventually took the harassment too far. Ribeiro said in the lawsuit that Johnson once insisted that she leave her husband and accompany him on a trip to Las Vegas.
Ribeiro told 3TV, “I worked there for four years. I can tell you a woman definitely gets treated differently.”
Not only was she being subjected to a hostile work environment, but she alleges that Johnson tried to tell his employees how to vote. She explained to 3TV, “I was instructed to rent a bus for some employees to get on, so we could go to the Capitol and vote for who we were told to vote for.” She said, “We were like, ‘oh do we have to do this, are we supposed to,’ but it came down to the bus would show, you’d get on it, and if you weren’t on it, you’d get let go.”
Her lawsuit also alleges that Johnson told employees who to vote for in several local elections.
In July of 2012, Ribeiro was fired for making a single personal phone call on a company issued cell phone while she was away, attending a training program. When she returned from the conference, she was informed that she was being let go for making the call.
After her alleged wrongful termination, Ribeiro contacted a sexual harassment attorney and began working on her federal lawsuit. She is asking for $3 million in compensation for her wrongful termination and lost wages and benefits.
Johnson has 30 days to respond to the suit, and Ribeiro said she is willing to go to trial if necessary. He has not responded to requests for comments.
She added that she hopes by filing her lawsuit she will give other people going through what she went through the strength to speak up.
“No one should have to deal with this type of behavior at work. It just isn’t right and if this helps someone else from having to deal with this, then this fight will be worth it,” Ribeiro said.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission granted her the right to sue after their investigation found that her claims had merit. Johnson can choose to settle the lawsuit or have the case heard in a federal court.