Lawsuit accuses Morton company of gender discrimination, ‘Mad Men’ culture

The Investigators

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Two women are suing Morton Buildings, claiming they were harassed and tormented by managers while working in a “‘Mad Men’ culture.”

In a lawsuit filed in March, former employee Tracey Bartoletta said she endured gender discrimination for ten months while working for the company.

“I was asked to prove that I’d actually done a sales presentation. In order to prove it, I had to dig through the trash on my hands and knees to get the evidence,” Bartoletta told WMBD. “I thought to myself I’ve never seen any man on his hands and knees in the trash.”

She said that was the breaking point and a pattern she never expected when she took the job in June 2016.

“I needed the job. I wanted my job. I was excited to be there, so the whole thing was soul-crushing and numbing,” she said.

The lawsuit accuses clients of calling female sales representatives derogatory names, with no intervention from the company. It claims a manager hit Bartoletta on the backside and brandished a baseball bat in the office to intimidate female employees.

The lawsuit says, at one point, a co-worker remarked “that God created women by lining up all the men and castrating the stupid ones.”

It includes another allegation of harassment, in which a co-worker reportedly asked a female employee a sexually explicit question in front of a group. Attorneys for Morton Buildings have responded to that particular allegation. In court documents filed last week, they deny the wording but admit that the company disciplines a male employee for “making an inappropriate joke.”

“It was intrinsic. It was systemic, from the top to the bottom,” Bartoletta said. “The boss of the boss of the boss knew what was going on, and they tolerated it.”

Bartoletta said, during her employment, she filed a complaint with human resources.

She later took unpaid medical leave and was diagnosed with PTSD. She said she received a letter from the company four months later, while on leave, ending her employment.

WMBD Investigators uncovered documents showing it is not the first time Morton Buildings has been accused of discriminating against women. A 2009 lawsuit claims a longtime female employee was denied a promotion and paid less than male co-workers. The woman who filed that suit said, in her ten years at the company, no woman held a management role.

More than a decade later, Bartoletta said nothing has changed and now change is what she’s after.

“Morton Buildings is a good old boys club. Women make the coffee at Morton,” Bartoletta said. “The truth is really easy to remember, so I’m only speaking the truth. I’m speaking the truth for the ladies who are afraid to speak up, and in hopes that something changes and the right thing gets done. Women deserve a safe workplace.”

A spokesperson for Morton Buildings did not return WMBD’s request for comment on the lawsuit. One business day after we contacted the company, its lawyers filed their legal response.

Their defense claims that neither the company nor employees “acted with willful, malicious or reckless indifference.” Attorneys wrote that Morton Buildings “exercised reasonable care to prevent harassing behavior and promptly correct it when it might occur.”

Court documents say Bartoletta’s manager was fired after her termination. They do not say why.

The other plaintiff on the lawsuit against Morton Buildings, Julie Sanders, declined to participate in this story because she is still employed by the company.

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