31-year-old Brett Copeland, working at the biggest U.S. federal employee union, was recently promoted to the role of communications director. Shortly after the promotion, in April 2017, Copeland was attending a meeting in Palm Springs with the 66-year-old head of the union, J. David Cox.
It was after the meeting that the incident took place, when the President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), invited Copeland to share a drink with him and to come have a look at his Jacuzzi in his room.
Cox expressed his love towards Copeland repeatedly and when the two were about to reach the hotel, Cox closed in to hug him and he stuck his tongue in his ear. Shaken by Cox’s actions, Copeland felt uneasy and horrible. Despite the love and passion that he had for his work and union, Copeland resigned the next day when they got back to Washington.
When the incident took place, Rocky Kabir, Cox’s secretary was accompanying the two. According to him, he wasn’t sure if he saw Cox’s licking Copeland’s ear as he was standing further away, but he confirmed the advances Cox’s made towards Copeland, including the hug and him placing his hand on the communication director’s shoulder while Copeland was urinating.
Kabir has worked as a secretary to Cox for about a year and a half, and he has his own personal experiences to share of being harrassed by Cox. The federal employee union’s President had made unwelcomed physical advances towards him as well, trying to touch his face multiple times, advising him to try having sex with men, and urging him to shower with him.
Kabir, who also resigned a year later than Copeland, was verbally abused by Cox as witnessed by Copeland and another worker. He rejected his comments and physical advances by cursing at Cox and concentrating on work, but Cox would consistently harass him.
This matter wasn’t a hidden secret at the union, as most of the employees were familiar with Cox’s behaviors. He used to casually pass inappropriate comments regarding both male and female subordinates.
The workers, aware of his inappropriate behavior, would look out for each other and warn others to stay careful of him during late hours or when alcohol or hotel rooms were involved. Although the employees tried to bring up this issue internally, the matter was always disregarded by the upper management.
The matter was brought to light by Bloomberg News, when more than 10 women and men shared their experiences of being victim to or witnessing Cox’s inappropriate behavior while they were working for AFGE. Most employees that didn’t speak up against the misconduct before said that they either didn’t want to damage the union’s reputation or were afraid of the repercussions.
Denying the accusations of sexual harassment, Cox apologized for making anyone feel uneasy by his words or actions, stating that he never intended to do so. He claimed that these allegations are lies and political attacks.
Once the inquiry was received, Cox ordered an investigation, and then stepped out from the process to ensure the investigation is just and without any of his influence. The union also made it clear that the matter would be investigated thoroughly and action would be taken. However, no such steps were taken when Copeland took the matter to upper management in 2017.
Do not let your employer take advantage of your position or interfere with your future employment opportunities. Contact our employment law attorney at Eldessouky Law in Long Beach, California today at (714) 923-4350 for sound advice and the representation you need to pursue justice.