Guard Fired For Reporting Surveillance Sexual Harassment

By Carlton Purvis, Published Jan 10, 2014, 12:00am EST

A guard is fired after reporting misconduct by another guard monitoring surveillance cameras. Now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing on his behalf. Here is the full complaint.

Christopher Smith worked as a security guard for Guardsmark watching over a General Dynamics facility in Warren, Michigan, but was fired after he told a woman she was being sexually harassed via security camera.

“On a number of occasions, Smith observed a coworker using the security cameras to zoom in on women’s private parts,” according to the lawsuit. He complained to the coworker, but the coworker wouldn’t stop. Smith told one of the women what was going on, and she filed a sexual harassment complaint. Guardsmark fired him two days later.

Smith filed a complaint with the EEOC saying he was terminated because he opposed sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace. The EEOC says this is a case of retaliation and that Smith was deprived of equal employment opportunities and filed the suit on Christmas Eve.

"Title VII protects employees from being retaliated against for opposing sexual harassment even if they complain to someone else, like a co-worker or client," said Nedra Campbell, trial attorney for the EEOC in a prepared statement. "Employees like Smith who oppose the illegal acts of a co-worker should be commended, not fired."

The agency is suing for past and future wages for Smith and punitive damages and asking for an injunction barring Guardsmark from “perpetuating a sexually hostile work environment, and retaliating against any individual who opposes sex discrimination and/or a sexually hostile work environment.”

It is not clear whether the guard who was controlling the surveillance system was disciplined or the disposition of the female employee's sexual harassment complaint. A security officer at the site said Smith was terminated before he started there, but he was not aware of any other firings since then.

Emails and calls to Guardsmark about the suit went unreturned.

Serious Risk for Surveillance Operators

Given the power of surveillance cameras, especially PTZs with zoom capabilities, to track and pick up details, plus the predominance of male surveillance operators, often young and immature, the risk of this is real. We suspect this is fairly common problem, though hard to detect given that rarely do others monitor what the surveillance operators are monitoring. At minimum, very clear standard operating procedures should be delivered and regularly re-emphasized, especially to new operators that this will not be tolerated at all.

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