Public Safety

Former Collins employee sues over sexual harassment and assault

Says former co-worker groped her but company took no action

A Rockwell Collins sign is visible while temporary signage for Collins Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies Corp., c
A Rockwell Collins sign is visible while temporary signage for Collins Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies Corp., covers another sign along Collins Road in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A former Collins Aerospace employee is suing the company and a co-worker, asserting the man sexually harassed and assaulted her while they were attending a work conference and that the company did not take action against him despite her complaint.

Marieda Freese, 37, of Marion, who started at Rockwell Collins in March 2004, alleged in a lawsuit filed this month in Linn County District Court that a male co-worker grabbed her breasts “and shook them” Oct. 17, 2018, while they were sitting in a bar after a day at the work conference in Minnesota. The male colleague then told two other men to look at her chest.

Pamela Tvrdy-Cleary, a spokeswoman for Collins, said Thursday the company won’t comment on pending litigation.

According to the suit, Freese and the co-worker had dinner after the conference with other employees and then later, six employees went to a bar about midnight.

Freese asserted in the suit the incident happened “out of the blue and with no warning” after the two other men, who were not Collins employees, came up to the bar by them.

A short time later, Freese left the bar with another employee and returned to her hotel, according to the suit.

The next day, she submitted a statement about the incident to Angela Gammill, Collins’ ombudsman, according to the court papers.

Gammill called her and talked at length about the incident, but said Collins would make no attempt to identify or contact the two witnesses because “we don’t like to air our dirty laundry” outside the company, according to the suit.

Freese said she told Gammill she had been having panic attacks as a result of the incident.

The company had the male co-worker leave the conference and return to Iowa, the suit said.

According to the lawsuit, Freese had been stalked and harassed in 2009 by a former boyfriend, and that she then developed post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, anxiety and depression, including panic attacks and difficulty coping with stress.

The court papers show Freese took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act from Oct. 25 through Nov. 25, 2018.

Angie Riek, a victim’s advocate from the ombudsman’s office, said the co-worker had said the only incident that occurred in Minnesota was that “there was an altercation at the bar because a gay man hit on me.”

Freese said she discovered another female employee had complained to Collins about experiencing sexist and sexually harassing behavior from the same man in 2016, shortly before he was promoted to management, the suit states.

The other woman who complained called the ombudsman again in 2018 to make sure her complaint would be taken into account now that Freese had reported a similar incident.

A company investigation of the co-worker concluded Oct. 31, 2018, according to the suit. Freese said she was told the case was closed and it was policy not to discuss any actions taken against another employee.

According to the lawsuit, Collins never disciplined the man.

Freese said she was afraid to encounter him at work and again took medical leave. She was “constructively discharged” Aug. 7, according to the lawsuit.

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally posted.

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