ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – A former lumber company employee felt stable in her career until a transfer resulted in an allegedly depraved, sexually charged work environment.
A general manager is accused of making unwanted sexual advances and vile sexual remarks.
Amanda Burch filed suit against Tibbetts Lumber Company on February 7 accusing the company of violating her rights under Florida’s Whistleblower Act. A future amended complaint of “sexual harassment and retaliation” is expected to be filed for violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act.
Her attorney, Ron Fraley in Tampa, spoke to The Free Press.
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Fraley said that Tibbetts’ attorneys claim Burch’s statements are all lies and they will, so to speak, defend Tibbetts to the death. But Fraley, a sexual harassment attorney, believes his client is telling the truth. He said there are other female Tibbetts Lumber employees who may come forward.
“So, in the Tibbetts case, we have two other women that have knowledge of this, but they don’t want to come forward at this point. I have to respect that,” said Fraley.
Fraley is convinced something happened, “She was going to be the office manager at this place. Then all of a sudden they get her out of there. We’ll have to see if there’s write-ups.”
According to the lawsuit, Burch was transferred from the company’s St. Petersburg store, now closed, to its Largo operation. She was initially employed in June 2021, received increased duties and pay, and was then transferred to Largo to train as an office manager, according to Fraley. Largo General Manager, Brent Havens, is allegedly the employee who inappropriately asserted himself.
Burch claims Havens made lewd comments, such as, “Your b—bs will get tiny if you lose weight,” and other comments The Free Press determined too depraved for the public’s palate.
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Burch accuses Havens of asking her to keep him company in Fort Myers and separately forcing hugs and touching her bottom without consent.
The company’s human resource director allegedly told Burch there would be no investigation unless another employee formally complained. In the meantime, Burch claims her commission pay was reduced and that she was transferred back to the St. Petersburg office where she still occasionally worked.
The lawsuit states the human resource director told Burch, “Let karma take care of it…you really don’t want to get your name in the fight.”
Burch claims she was sent back to the St. Petersburg office near its time to be shut down, with less pay, a lower-tier job, and no option to remain with the company unless she was willing to drive two-and-a-half hours to another location. The circumstances allegedly forced her to resign.
The Free Press made several attempts to reach Tibbetts Lumber executives David Stauter, President, and Russ Hallenbeck, CEO. They did not respond to comment on this case.
The company has 11 locations in Florida and was established in 1949.
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