Stephen Barraclough, left, and Terry Dorman in October 2017
Three former female managers at Burlington Telecom have sued the utility and the city for sex discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract.
Stacey Trudo, Dawn Monahan and Abigail Tykocki, all former senior-level BT employees, filed the lawsuit in March in Franklin County Superior Court against the City of Burlington, BT general manager Stephen Barraclough and his supervisor, William Dorman, who goes by Terry.
Through their attorney, Thomas Nuovo of Bauer Gravel Farnham, the women say they were denied equal pay for equal work and were assigned extra duties without additional compensation, despite the fact that male employees were awarded raises and bonuses.
They’re asking for a jury trial, attorney fees, and for damages related to violations of state and federal fair compensation laws, and emotional distress, the complaint says. The city’s response denies the allegations and says “any differences in wage were due to bona fide factors other than sex.”
In one instance documented in the suit, Barraclough promised Monahan, the former controller at BT, a 10 percent bonus for her extra work in winter 2017 ahead of the utility’s sale. But Barraclough reneged once he learned Monahan had filed a discrimination complaint against him with the city’s human resources department, the suit says.
“In fact, all the plaintiffs suffered additional discrimination as a result of their complaints,” the suit says.
In another alleged incident, Monahan and Tykocki, the utility’s former marketing and public relations director, learned a male employee was falsifying time sheets and vacation time. Barraclough “refused to take any action” on it, and when he learned the women had contacted human resources, “he threatened and accused them of potentially putting the sale of Burlington Telecom at risk,” the complaint says.
The city forced the women to meet with Burlington attorney Pietro Lynn, who was leading an investigation of their complaints to the human resources department. City attorney Eileen Blackwood wouldn't clarify Lynn’s role in the questioning, however, and later, the city refused the women’s request for a copy of his investigative report, citing attorney-client privilege, the lawsuit says.
Lynn did tell the women "he was being paid an exorbitant amount of money by the City of Burlington to conduct the investigation," according to the suit.
Lynn is currently representing a former Essex Town selectboard member in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the municipality in which she also requested, and was denied, the same type of investigative report, the Essex Reporter reported last year.
The BT suit says the city’s actions violated Vermont’s Constitution and public records act. It also says the city handbook was supposed to protect the women from retaliation and harassment. All three were forced to leave their positions because the defendants failed to act, the lawsuit says.
Blackwood said on Wednesday that the city believes the women were paid fairly.
"We believe the plaintiffs were paid what they were entitled to be paid," she said. "When they raised these complaints, we looked into them."
The LinkedIn profiles for all three plaintiffs show that they left BT in January. Tykocki now lives and works in Michigan, and Monahan is the finance director for the City of Barre. Trudo’s profile only shows her latest position as division manager for residential products at BT. All three had worked at the utility for several years.
Nuovo, their attorney, has experience with discrimination lawsuits involving the city: He represented three plaintiffs against former Burlington Electric general manager Barbara Grimes; one resulted in a $200,000 settlement, the Burlington Free Press reported in June 2014.
Nuovo wouldn’t discuss details of the current case, but said he has evidence to succeed at trial. Speaking generally, Nuovo said the #MeToo movement — the global speak-out against sexual harassment — has emboldened women to come forward with such allegations.
“Each one of them is an accomplished individual, and the fact the complaint shows they were treated differently than their male counterparts is unfortunate in a city where we think that doesn't happen,” Nuovo said.
“We will have a long way to go before there’s complete equality in the workplace, unfortunately,” he added.
Reached by phone Wednesday at his Norwich home, Barraclough referred all questions to the city attorney: “I don't want to comment on something like that, no,” he said.
In a 2014 Seven Days profile of Barraclough, several city officials and BT employees praised the GM for his role in helping turn the utility around financially. At the time, City Councilor Joan Shannon (D-South District) called him "the key player in righting the ship."
Neither Dorman nor his and Barraclough’s attorney, Elizabeth Miller, returned requests for comment. Their official answer to the complaint is due later this month.
The city hired Dorman & Fawcett in 2009 to help run the struggling utility; Barraclough came on in 2010. He and Dorman said in 2017 that the firm would no longer operate the telecom once the sale was finalized. A BT employee confirmed on Wednesday that Barraclough is still the utility's general manager.
Mayor Miro Weinberger announced in March that the $30.8 million sale to Schurz Communications had gone through, though a group of citizens appealed the sale last week to the Vermont Supreme Court.