What to Know
- Female Allied employees who worked at the Oculus and Kennedy Airport have alleged a cultural of sexual harassment by male supervisors
- A woman who worked at JFK has filed a federal lawsuit, and the Port Authority is investigating claims from an ex-Allied worker at WTC
- Allied has denied allegations brought forth in the former JFK supervisor's complaint; it said it wasn;t notified of ex-WTC worker's claim
The Port Authority Inspector General’s office is investigating a new claim of sexual harassment made by a former security guard who worked for Allied Universal Security Services at the World Trade Center transportation hub.
The Port Authority pays Allied more than $200 million dollars to provide security at the WTC site and the three main area airports.
Nicole Johnson, who worked at the Oculus, made allegations in a federal employment complaint that echo claims made by two other former female security guards who worked for Allied at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The IG is already investigating the airport security workers' accusations.
In both cases, the women allege male managers were more concerned with sex than in protecting the public.
Johnson alleges she was subjected to “a campaign of sexual harassment” by a male supervisor, and that when she was retaliated against when she complained.
“It got to the point where there was groping involved," she said. "There was him rubbing his groin on me. It got to the point where it became degrading.”
Johnson says she was inspired to come forward after seeing the I-Team interview with women who worked for Allied at Kennedy Airport.
In that interview, LaDonna Powell, a former supervisor for Allied at JFK, called the atmosphere “a sex fest,” alleging that male managers pressured female guards for sex and gave them preferred assignments if they complied.
Another woman described a similar environment.
“If you want to get an easy post, meaning like a driving post or to give breaks, they (the supervisors), would want you to do whatever they wanted, sexually,” said Marsha-nique Irving.
Johnson's allegations are similar.
“We’re feeling like, hey, you have to sleep with a supervisor in order to get a good post, or you have to sleep with a supervisor in order to get a certain day off," she said. "You know, it’s just sad.”
Johnson claims in the complaint that when she didn’t comply sexually, she was stuck on a post on a construction site where the rats were so bad she had to stand on a bucket.
The former JFK guards said they were punished by being put on remote posts and not given bathroom breaks.
Johnson, who was let go in September, alleges the male supervisor concocted an excuse to have her fired. She said she has been unable to get a new job.
Manhattan law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP now represents several former Allied security guards, including the three women interviewed by the I-Team.
“This is clearly a problem with the culture at Allied and it’s been tolerated for a long time from the top down,” attorney David Lebowitz said.
“There’s no coincidence that you’re at the World Trade Center and these women are at the airport but you guys are going through the exact same thing in two different places that’s run by the same company," she said. "You have people like myself and the other women who’s coming forth with their stories. That’s going to make it able to where this won’t be done at the workplace because we have rights. You can’t degrade us, you can’t sexually harass us at the workplace."
A spokesperson for Allied confirmed Johnson’s employment from January to September of 2017 and said, “Allied Universal has not been notified of a sexual harassment claim during her stint. The company takes these allegations very seriously, and responds when they arise."
In legal papers, Allied has denied the allegations in a federal lawsuit brought by Powell.