A former employee has filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit, alleging that her employer offered to pay for breast enlargement surgery and threatened her job after she rebuffed multiple sexual advances.
Paula Wallace, who worked as an account executive at Macon Occupational Medicine from Oct. 22, 2012, until her firing Nov. 1, 2013, filed the suit Monday. It named the facility and its president and CEO, Leonard Bevill, as defendants.
Contacted by phone Wednesday, Bevill said, “These allegations are completely false.”
He referred further comment to his attorney, saying he wouldn’t discuss a pending legal matter. Attempts to reach Bevill’s lawyer were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Macon Occupational Medicine, located on Third Street in downtown Macon, performs pre-employment alcohol and drug screenings, physical exams and other services.
In her complaint, filed in Bibb County Superior Court, Wallace said she and Bevill knew each other from the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce and the Leadership Macon program before Bevill offered her a job.
Wallace alleges that she was a victim of unwelcome, harassing conduct throughout her employment, beginning with Bevill’s trying to kiss her multiple times after the two attended a business function.
“She rebuked him and pulled away, and told him that she was not interested in becoming romantically involved with him,” according to the court filing.
Wallace also contends that Bevill approached her at a meeting and offered to pay for her to have breast augmentation surgery if he was allowed to see the finished product. While making the offer, he started to unbutton her blouse, according to the suit.
Again, Wallace pushed Bevill away, telling him “please don’t come after me for this,” according to the filing.
At other times, she contends, Bevill touched her breasts and buttocks, physically blocked her from leaving a room and put his hands up her shirt after moving in for an “ostensibly platonic hug.”
Wallace alleges that Bevill asked her to have sex and she refused.
He told her that “being attractive was part of her job description” and that she wouldn’t have to worry about money if she acquiesced to his advances, according to the lawsuit.
Bevill sent multiple text messages, often late at night, and called her inquiring about her favorite lingerie, alcohol preferences and about “the craziest sexual encounter she ever had,” according to the court filing.
Wallace alleges that Bevill said or implied that she would receive “favorable treatment at work” and money if she gave him what he wanted, but when she refused, she found her workload increased and Bevill threatened to fire her.
In summer 2013, the suit said, two other female employees accused Bevill of sexual discrimination and harassment. Bevill threatened to kill Wallace if she told a person investigating the complaints any information that supported those allegations, or anything that could harm him or the business, according to the suit.
Wallace called in sick during the two days that an investigation was conducted at the business, according to the court filing. She alleges that Bevill gave her $200 cash, saying it was his “thank you” for “being supportive.”
Wallace said she complained about Bevill’s advances to the company’s then-vice president, Tonia Vance, and also to the medical director and the vice president of client relations.
She alleges in the suit that Vance, also the company’s human resources director, also made sexual advances toward her that included kissing her on one occasion.
When The Telegraph called Macon Occupational Medicine seeking comment, a reporter was told that Vance no longer works at the facility. Vance is not named individually in the suit.
Wallace said she was offered severance pay in exchange for her resignation in August 2013. On Nov. 1, Bevill offered to double the severance offer and demanded an immediate decision, according to the lawsuit.
Wallace refused to resign and was fired. Macon Occupational Medicine fought her claim for unemployment payments, but she received benefits after filing an appeal, according to the filing.
She filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a right to sue letter in June.
Wallace is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, back pay and three years of front pay for lost earnings.
Other employers were hesitant to hire Wallace after her firing because they were familiar with Bevill’s position in the business community, said Jennifer Coalson, one of three lawyers representing Wallace.
Bevill is a member of the One Macon implementation committee. He served on the Macon-Bibb County Consolidation Task Force and is a past president of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce board.
Wallace has found a job, although she has a lower salary than she did in her job at Macon Occupational Medicine, Coalson said.
“Her biggest concern is making sure this doesn’t happen to someone else,” Coalson said. “That is what is driving this.”
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.