Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Misconduct at Fort Lauderdale Funeral Home
Photo courtesy of Eva.Blake-Knox via Wikimedia Commons
Sex and death aren't exactly concepts that sit comfortably in your thoughts. But according to a lawsuit filed this month by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there was a lot of sexual hanky-panky going on at Fort Lauderdale's McWhite Funeral Home. Unfortunately — and grossly — it was an alleged pattern of aggressive sexual harassment and retaliation on the part of the funeral home's owner, Albert McWhite Sr.
The EEOC has already conducted a review of allegations made by several women, finding "reasonable cause to believe" the funeral home "discriminated" and subjected female employees to a "sexually hostile work environment."
The suit features the cases of three former McWhite employees who allegedly had hellish experiences at the funeral home. Between January 2013 and September 2014, a woman named Ashlee Monroe worked at McWhite's as a paid intern — a position necessary for anyone looking to get a full-time license for funeral work. But Monroe was subject to "unwelcomed sexual comments and touching by McWhite and his son" — also an employee at the funeral home. The harassment Monroe faced, according to the lawsuit, included:
a. McWhite telling Monroe that she should go to a funeral convention with him so she could sleep with him.
b. McWhite talking to Monroe about women he wanted to have sex with.
c. McWhite telling Monroe he took Viagra at work.
d. McWhite telling Monroe that her butt looks big in certain pants.
e. McWhite telling Monroe about his mistress living down the street from him and his wife.
f. McWhite telling Monroe that she looked like a stripper on a flier he had and showed to all employees, and asking CP if she was a stripper.
g. McWhite showing Monroe pictures on phone of naked women, including one of a naked woman, bent over, showing her butt and vagina, and another of him having an orgy with at least two other women.
h. After showing Monroe pictures of naked women, McWhite told Monroe he dreamt about Monroe.
The suit also claims that Monroe was physically touched "on the butt, neck, arms, and hips." Also: that McWhite was allegedly having sex with another female employee; after stopping the affair, McWhite allegedly cut her hours, telling her she "would never have shit." Monroe also claims she overheard "McWhite say to another female employee, at least two or three times a week, 'Let me get some pussy.'" McWhite allegedly told Monroe that she would never make enough money as a funeral home director "unless she slept with her boss."
We're not done: McWhite also allegedly said "that he would kill anyone that came between him and his business and/or that he would pay someone to hurt people that affected his business."
But Monroe isn't the only woman whose allegations are included in the EEOC lawsuit. Between February 2014 and January 2015, Khiante Thompson worked at the home as a funeral attendant. She also witnessed gross sexual misconduct, according to the lawsuit. Thompson witnessed McWhite repeatedly "make sexual comments about customers' bodies" and "take pictures of female customers' butts."
Also: "McWhite told Thompson to lift up her dress, and when Thompson refused he said that 'she still young' and that he would 'give her a couple of mango seasons before getting her.'"
According to the suit, McWhite's threatening attitude toward Thompson had an additional edge. Apparently on probation, Thompson had a parole officer who was acquainted with McWhite. The funeral director told his employee "all you need to know is that I know her and she's ready to send your ass back to jail." That edge only sharpened in December 2014, after Monroe filed an EEOC complaint against McWhite. The funeral boss asked Thompson to write a letter to the EEOC saying she "had not seen any sexual harassment." She claims that she refused and that McWhite slashed her work hours to zero.
A third woman — Vancinia Jones — is also included in the EEOC lawsuit. Working for McWhite between March 2012 and October 2012, she filed her own EEOC complaint regarding discrimination in December 2012, the lawsuit says. After she left, however, McWhite badmouthed her to other funeral homes, and she couldn't get another gig.
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All three women took their complaints to the EEOC. The commission found "reasonable cause" for all three instances of harassment and discrimination. Three separate "letters of determination" were mailed from the government agency to McWhite, alerting him of the outcome of the investigations. The commission says it invited McWhite to "join the commission in informal methods of conciliation to endeavor to eliminate the discriminatory practices and provide appropriate relief."
But the commission couldn't hash out an agreement. Hence the lawsuit, which is filed in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The commission is also seeking a class — any other women who worked with McWhite and suffered similar harassment.
When reached by phone this week, McWhite didn't want to comment. "I can't talk to you about that," the funeral director told New Times. McWhite added that he currently didn't have a lawyer who could address the allegations.
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