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Staples worker alleges harassment, discrimination

August 06, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A forklift operator at Staples Distribution Center has filed a discrimination complaint against the firm, alleging company officials have failed to discipline employees who have persistently harassed him.

Mohamad M. Karim, a native of Bangladesh who lives in Hagerstown, filed the complaint with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations.

The June complaint, a copy of which Karim provided to The Herald-Mail, alleges a series of incidents stretching from last August to May of this year. He said in the complaint that he has been assaulted by co-workers, called offensive names based on his national origin and threatened.

Karim, 39, alleged that supervisors at the distribution center off Hopewell Road have failed to take corrective action.

"I was so sick, I couldn't go to sleep. If I go to sleep, I have bad dreams," he said in an interview.

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Sandy Brisentine, the distribution center's human resources manager, said on Thursday that the company has not received a copy of the complaint from the Human Relations Commission.

She declined to comment on the specific allegations, citing company confidentiality policies.

Brisentine said all new employees undergo comprehensive training regarding harassment and discrimination.

"We take all complaints seriously. Staples has zero tolerance for workplace harassment and discrimination of any kind," she said. "We promptly investigate any and all complaints."

The penalty for violating harassment and discrimination laws is dismissal, Brisentine said.

"That's what zero tolerance means," she said.

The Commission on Human Relations does not comment on open cases. When a case is assigned, an investigator attempts to mediate a solution, according to the agency's policy.

If mediation fails, and if the commission finds probable cause that a violation has occurred, an administrative law judge can be called in to resolve disputes.

Karim said in the complaint that employees who have harassed him have not been punished. He said several workers who have witnessed assaults and taunts against him have refused to cooperate.

The first incident, according to Karim's complaint, occurred on Aug. 8, 1998. A co-worker shoved his forklift into him, the complaint alleges.

On May 24 of this year, another co-worker crashed his forklift into Karim's and then "verbally harassed" him, according to allegations in the complaint.

Karim said employees have threatened him and have hurled expletives and epithets at him.

Karim said that while other employees were allowed to perform other jobs on a rotating basis, he said he was forced to do the same job every day.

Karim, who was hired in March 1998, was transferred to another team in June.

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