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Another bizarre sexual harassment suit has been filed against Scott Specialty Gases in Bucks County, Pa., — this time by a female plant manager who says she was constantly undermined by a vice president who admitted that he was a “sexist pig.” Attorneys Martha Sperling and Elizabeth O’Connor Tomlinson of Silver & Sperling filed the suit on behalf of Diane Blair of West Chester, Pa., naming as defendants the company, its vice president Thomas Barford and plant supervisor Jerry Stump. Several years ago, Sperling and Tomlinson won a $4.2 million verdict against Scott Specialty Gases in a sexual harassment and sex discrimination suit brought by Christine Rush, who claimed that for nearly four years as a lab technician at Scott, she was never promoted while men with less seniority passed her by. At trial, witnesses said Rush’s boss held a belief based on the Bible that women should not work outside the home and that he considered women “evil” and said they “lead men astray.” Rush, who was often the only woman at the plant, also claimed male co-workers sexually harassed her — touching her and making sexually explicit comments — and that management ignored her complaints. One co-worker allegedly said he wanted to rape Rush in his van and then shoot her in the head so she wouldn’t be around to complain. Rush said the man made the remark in a crowded room but was never disciplined. But U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner slashed the verdict to just $603,000 – cutting both her $3 million punitive award and her $1 million emotional suffering award by 90 percent. Rush lost her bid to have the full verdict restored when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled instead that the company was entitled to a new trial. The panel concluded that the jury’s verdict was “infected” by evidence it never should have heard since the statute of limitations had run on all of Rush’s claims related to being passed over for promotions. The case settled prior to the second trial. Now, in a new lawsuit, Sperling and Tomlinson are once again accusing Scott Specialty Gases of fostering a sexist environment in which women are harassed and their work is unfairly criticized or undermined. Blair claims that Barford, who is also general manager of the company’s medical division, told her during her initial interview that he “would rather have a male plant manager who was married with a couple of kids and living in Doylestown.” The suit also quotes Barford as asking Blair: “How do I know you won’t meet a doctor or a lawyer six months from now and leave me high and dry?” Blair claims she accepted the job reluctantly after she was assured that Barford would not discriminate against her. Within her first year on the job, Blair claims, she was “not being allowed to make an impact in her position” and purchasing and plant engineering responsibilities were taken away from her. Barford, she says, made sexually derogatory remarks, such as telling her that if she wanted to get anything done in the factory, “she should hike up her skirts and show her legs.” On one occasion, the suit says, Barford said that he would not be able to participate in the sensitivity training at the plant on sexual harassment and discrimination issues because he was a “sexist pig” and that “if people knew all the things he had done, he would be fired.” Barford began putting Blair down in front of colleagues, the suit says, and routinely ignored her suggestions, instead directing all of his questions to male peers and subordinates. Although she claims that she complained repeatedly about Barford’s conduct, the suit says it continued unabated. When another woman at the plant complained to Blair that she was being harassed by her supervisor, the suit says, Blair went to Barford and Stump, who responded by retaliating against Blair. Stump allegedly spread rumors that Blair and the woman who had complained to her were having a lesbian love affair. Blair says she complained to SSG’s president and CEO, Fred Mertz, who responded by telling her to “rise above all this and make things happen.” In March 1999, the suit says, Blair was forced to resign after she was “criticized and degraded” by Barford, who “found fault with her work in 93 separate ways and disparaged her abilities.”

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