Former Auto Worker Sues UAW For Sexual Harrasment

2/17/11

Detroit– A Chrysler autoworker claims she was fired because she broke off a relationship with the son of a United Auto Workers official, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal court.

The lawsuit, filed by Janet Burney, a member of UAW Local 51 at Chrysler’s Mack Avenue plant, accuses the UAW of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation. She is seeking an unspecified judgment for lost wages, benefits and emotional damages, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

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A UAW spokeswoman could not be reached for comment today.

The lawsuit comes amid renewed optimism at Chrysler, which is basking in the success of its Super Bowl commercial featuring Eminem.

The lawsuit stems from a soured relationship, according to court records, between Burney and Pat Byers, whose father is John Byers, who as recently as last summer was co-director of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.

The two started dating in December 2007, and Burney was given a new job working on special assignment and a raise from $30 an hour to $40.35 an hour, according to the lawsuit.

“Pat Byers had told the plaintiff repeatedly that as long as she was with him her job in special assignment was secure,” Burney’s lawyer Richard A. Meier wrote in the lawsuit. “(Burney) was terminated because she is a female who refused to continue a sexual relationship with Pat Byers.”

But in March 2010, the relationship ended.

And a security guard entered Burney’s office, handed her two boxes and said she had to leave the building immediately. The order came from Solidarity House, the UAW’s headquarters in Detroit, according to the lawsuit.

Pat Byers is listed as a union official on the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center’s website in charge of joint training and tuition-assistance programs.

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