Two women claim that Teamsters Local Union 651 in Lexington violated labor law and created a hostile work environment, according to a suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
The complaint names Local 651, its president Mike Philbeck and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as defendants.
Al Priddy, a Louisville attorney who represents Local 651, said Thursday that he had not seen the suit and could not comment on it.
The women who filed the suit are Sara Clark of Lexington and Carol Estepp of Nicholasville. Clark was finance and benefits coordinator for the local until she was fired in March; Estepp, who is still employed by the union, is listed as the dues coordinator on Local 651’s website.
The women assert a variety of claims including violations of their rights under a 1959 federal law called the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. The law regulates labor unions’ internal affairs and their officials’ relationships with employees.
The women claim in the suit that Philbeck “used derogatory language toward and about women.” For example, the suit says Philbeck frequently called “female company representatives ‘bitches’ when he was talking” to the women, and used “profanity-laced diatribes when he was accusing” the women of “minor violations of his directives.”
The suit also alleges that Philbeck “usually carried a firearm with him even on the local’s premises” even though the local’s bylaws prohibited firearms on the premises.
During a hearing on May 15, the local’s secretary-treasurer “testified that Clark was harassed and fired by Philbeck for ‘standing up’” to him, the suit says.
On May 20, the Teamsters Membership Investigations Committee created to investigate various accusations of misconduct within the 651’s leadership issued a final report that corroborated Clark and Estepp’s claims, the suit says.
Nevertheless, the suit says Local 651 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters “have done nothing to change or better the situation at Local 651, or to discipline Philbeck for his actions in any way or to do anything to curb the hostile environment created by Philbeck.”
“The union has failed to help these members,” said Luke Morgan, the Lexington lawyer who represents the women.
The suit also makes claims of wrongful termination, defamation, invasion of privacy, unlawful access to a computer, destruction of evidence and civil conspiracy. Clark and Estepp also seek recovery of overtime compensation.
Local 651 represents bargaining units at a variety of employers in Central and Eastern Kentucky, including Pepsi-Cola Bottling, Georgia Pacific and Bosch Rexroth Corp. in Lexington.