Five women filed a $17 million sexual harassment lawsuit yesterday against Federal Express Corp. and a manager in its Gaithersburg office, alleging that the company did nothing to stop the man from stalking, sexually assaulting and threatening female employees.
Three of the women said that their manager, Ronald Epps, sexually assaulted or molested them in incidents since 1997. Epps, of the 18000 block of Tree Branch Terrace in Germantown, also screamed at them or disciplined them after they lodged complaints, according to the 30-page complaint filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The other two women alleged that Federal Express supervisors discouraged their complaints about Epps's angry outbursts and incidents of harassment from other co-workers.
Reached at his front door yesterday afternoon, Epps, 41, said "I have no comment," and referred a reporter to the company's media relations office.
Federal Express spokeswoman Carla Boyd said officials at the company's headquarters in Memphis had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on the specific allegations. However, she said Federal Express has policies, such as allowing employees to meet directly with their boss's supervisor, to ensure that complaints are heard.
"FedEx is well-known as a good place to work," Boyd said. "The company insists that all employees be treated with dignity and respect."
Ronald A. Karp, the women's attorney, said his clients weren't treated that way in the Gaithersburg office. Some of them did not complain about Epps to Federal Express officials because they "felt FedEx had an environment where these kinds of things would flourish and no one would do anything about it," Karp said.
Two of the women, Karen Young and Setyan Jarath, reported sexual assaults to Montgomery County police on July 25. They then called Karp, because they were concerned that the detective was not taking their complaints seriously, the attorney said.
Montgomery police spokesman Derek Baliles confirmed that the two women reported that they had been sexually assaulted at work. An officer wrote a report, and a detective is still investigating, Baliles said.
"In cases like these, where allegations are made with no physical proof other than 'he said-she said,' it takes awhile sometimes to get to the truth," Baliles said.
In the lawsuit, Young, 41, said Epps exposed himself to her and rubbed up against her repeatedly before sexually assaulting her in a locked office last summer. Jarath, 33, alleged in the complaint that Epps placed a check on his penis last month, fondled her breasts and repeatedly told her, "If you take care of your manager, your manager will take care of you."
Marni Hoes, 31, alleged that Epps sexually assaulted her while they loaded a truck together last summer, and that she escaped after climbing over several boxes. Catherine Harris, 35, said she "feared imminent bodily harm" from Epps after she rejected his advances and that he "threatened to cause her future problems" if she filed a complaint. Kimberly Kafka, 38, alleged that Federal Express supervisors did not follow up on her complaint that she had been sexually assaulted by another man in her truck in 1995 and did not take seriously her complaints that another male co-worker was sexually harassing her.
Staff writer Steven Gray contributed to this report.