Same-sex couple sues employer for alleged harassment and discrimination
A married, same-sex couple from Marshall County is suing their employer for harassment and barring them from public displays of affection.
Rebeckah and Makaela Beem are suing Lennox Industries, alleging harassment, discrimination and retaliation at the company’s Marshalltown plant.
Lennox hired the Beems as assembly line workers on Feb. 4, 2017. Three months later, the two were married. Afterward, the lawsuit alleges, one worker told the two, “You need to quit showing that you’re not straight,” and, after seeing the couple kiss in their car, told Rebeckah, “You need to quit having sex and kissing everywhere.”
The lawsuit claims that after Rebeckah reported the comments, the company’s human resources office replied that the comments were Rebeckah’s fault because she was open as to her sexual orientation and had shown affection toward her spouse.
The lawsuit also claims the human resources office responded to a complaint in 2018 that that Rebeckah was seen with her arm around Makaela’s shoulder while they were walking out of the building by telling Rebeckah to stop engaging in “PDA,” or public displays of affection.
At around the same time, the lawsuit alleges, Makaela’s supervisor began making inappropriate, sexually charged comments toward her. On one occasion, he allegedly crept up behind her while she was bent over and purposefully rubbed his groin against her. After the Beems complained, they were disciplined for engaging in “sexual behavior” and for harassment.
The lawsuit claims another worker made repeated sexual advances toward Rebeckah and bought her a necklace for her birthday, which she refused. When she complained to the company, nothing was done, the lawsuit alleges, although the worker was later fired for sexual harassment unrelated to his treatment of Rebeckah or Makaela.
Lennox has denied all of the couple’s allegations and is seeking to have the case moved from state court to federal court.