NEWPORT CITY – Officials from Keene Medical Products are strongly denying allegations of sexual harassment and of intentional infliction of emotional harm to a former employee, Heather O' Neil. O'Neil has filed a complaint against Keene claiming Newport Branch Manager Joseph Lemieux and others engaged in the offensive behavior.
O’Neil said Lemieux, and at times other men in the office, subjected her to severe and pervasive sexual harassment in the form of cruel sexual taunts, lewd and offensive sexually explicit language and invitations to engage in inappropriate activity.
O’Neil claims Lemieux asked her to wear clothing that is more revealing, asked her specific questions about her sexual experiences and made sexual remarks.
O’Neil said that a male employee took her picture without her permission and, when she complained, another male employee asked if she had clothing on at the time the employee took the photo.
Court documents claim that O’Neil made complaints to superiors who told her she wasn’t the only female employee who brought sexual harassment complaints and suggested she ignore it, be nicer and to bring cookies to the office.
On Monday, Lemieux stressed that O’Neil is suing Keene Medical Products and not him. He also said the case is an ongoing investigation and interviews are still taking place.
Lemieux said, "The facts are somewhat exaggerated.... People can certainly accuse people of anything in a lawsuit, whether they're the facts or not. We'll have to wait and see,” said Lemieux. "But nothing could be farther from the truth. There was nothing sexual."
Lemieux said there are two types of sexual harassment. The first, he said, is a hostile work environment, and the second is when there is actual sexual harassment where one asks for sexual favors. "The way they've written some of the allegations makes it appear that way," said Lemieux. "There is no basis for the accusations."
Lemieux said there might have been some unprofessional conversations, but nothing like what O’Neil is describing.
According to court records, Keene Medical Products said O’Neil walked off her job without giving notice to the company.
In a prepared statement, Kurt R. Filiault, President and CEO of Keene Medical Products Inc., stated, "We believe that the allegations recently brought forward by Heather O’Neil to be unfounded. These allegations were not shared with us during her time of employment. Ms. O’Neil walked off her job abandoning her responsibilities with no prior notice."
The statement goes on to say that the company has worked diligently for 36 years building a strong business with an outstanding reputation and asks the public to remember that the concerns brought to their attention by Ms. O’Neil’s legal counsel are only allegations.
"We have conducted our own investigation with the aid of an outside private investigator and have determined that these allegations have no grounds," Filiault stated.
Lemieux has worked with Keene Medical for over 13 years with no concerns or complaints of this nature, Filiault asserted. "We remain committed to our relationship with Mr. Lemieux. Keene Medical Products looks forward to clearing our good name and have (sic) no doubt justice will prevail."