KNPR

Former Security Officer at Test Site Alleges Sexual Harassment And Assault

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You rarely hear anything about the Nevada National Security Site, north of Las Vegas. Now, that’s all changed.

On Monday, an intruder there was shot and killed by guards, and there’s no body camera footage.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that high-level nuclear waste was shipped there secretly by the Department of Energy.

And then there was the New York Times story last week of a female guard who alleges she was sexually assaulted during a security drill.

She also alleges that she was later fired in retaliation for reporting her allegations.

On Thursday, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto asked the Department of Energy to investigate the allegations leveled by Jennifer Glover. The nuclear security administration said it would review the way the contractors who employed her handled her case.

Glover told KNPR's State of Nevada that when she took the job at the test site in 2017 she was very excited.

“When I got this job, it was literally like a dream. I loved it. I loved doing it,” she said, “It’s just really sad because I turned from a dream into a complete nightmare.”

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Glover was a security protection officer or SPO. She was part of the team that patrolled buildings, checked clearance badges and secured the facility.

It wasn't her first job in security. She had experience in security and law enforcement. 

Glover said she was concerned before she even started working at the site because current SPOs had found information about her on social media and distributed her picture before she even finished her training.

Then when she started working the day shift with young officers, she said the sexual harassment started.

“I started getting propositioned at work,” she said.

Glover said male SPOs would ask her for sex or ask to see her breasts. 

The problems became significantly worse during a training drill in November 2017. Glover said she was assigned to pose as a bad guy in the drill.

Everyone in the drill had full body gear including a helmet and rifles. Glover said during the drill she was told that she had been 'shot' so she laid on the ground to simulate that she was dead.

That is when two male SPOs handcuffed her and starting searching her.

“That was when I was groped. They pulled my rifle away. When they did, they did hit me in the face with it," she said, "At the time, I was thinking, ‘okay I’m getting a little roughed up because that is part of the simulation.’”

It didn't take long for Glover to realize that she was being searched in the wrong way. She said male officers are supposed to use the back of their hands when searching females and vice versa for female officers; however, that is not what they were doing.

“I was definitely groped. My butt was groped… They put their hands underneath my vest and that’s when they grabbed my breasts and had pulled my nipple ring,” she said.

The ring was pulled out of her nipple. 

Glover said when the two SPOs left and she got up off the ground she tried to shake off the assault but one of the people observing the training asked to talk to her. He told her he had seen everything and the officers had touched her inappropriately.

“I felt soreness in my breasts. We had a bathroom break and I went to go to the bathroom and that’s when I saw blood on my tank top,” she said.

Glover said she became very angry and told several people about what happened. She also filed a formal complaint.

“The first thing a manager tells me, which I went to him for help, is, ‘well, this can happen in a man’s world.’ … Honestly, I’ve worked with men my entire life never have I ever experienced that,” she said.

Glover said her employer at the time, Centerra, launched an investigation but she believes it was not adequate.

Her attorney Jay Ellwanger said under federal Civil Rights law all allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination must be investigated immediately and those responsible need to be reprimanded immediately. 

“The point is they have to take it seriously," he said, "And we allege in the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] charge that that’s not what happened here.”

Glover said Centerra did not do much to find out who her assaulters were.

“Centerra swept it under the rug, tried to make me happy by just doing the bare minimum," she said, "These guys only got two days off and I don’t even know if they were my assaulters.”

Glover said because of the smoke used during the training exercise and the helmet she was wearing plus being handcuffed and on her stomach made it difficult to see who was responsible for the assault. 

The two SPOs who were disciplined in her case were given two days off for spreading rumors not for touching Glover.

“To this day, we’re not aware of anyone that received a single day of discipline for having sexually assaulted her on the job,” Ellwanger said.

After Centerra's investigation, a company called SOC took over the contract. Glover talked to her new employer about what happened but she said they also did nothing.

In fact, Glover says the retaliation was almost as bad as some of the harassment she suffered. 

“Even in the middle of the investigation, they were putting me on post with just me and one other person who could have been my assaulter," she said.

She felt she had to watch her own back with her own co-workers. Glover also alleges that during the investigation they would ask her questions about who she spent her spare time with instead of focusing on the assault and harassment.

Obviously, this upset her, but the more she made that anger known, the more trouble she got into.

“The more I voiced it the more they made it look like I was crazy and shouldn’t have guns,” she said, “They publicly humiliated me. They walked me off post. They took my guns for all my co-workers to see. Now, my assaulters and harassers are standing there literally laughing at me.”

The company asked her to go to a psychologist for evaluation. She said she did and received a clean bill of mental health. But the company still refused to give her back her security clearance or weapons.

Eventually, she was fired.

Ellwanger said being fired is common in harassment cases.

“Rather than doing the hard work that it takes to ferret out the harassment or discrimination at the workplace, the employer can sometimes find it more expedient to simply get rid of the person who did the complaining,” he said.

The official reason for her firing was that she was insubordinate. 

“It has actually destroyed my career,” Glover said.

She said she's lost her clearance, which means she can't work on a federal installation. Plus, she has to disclose that she was terminated to potential employers even though she had never been disciplined in writing in any job before.

Glover went from making six figures to zero in a few weeks. Now, she's getting help and support from Time's Up, which helps victims of sexual harassment. She also gets supportive messages from people who had worked at the test site and told her about their own harassment. Plus, her family is a source of strength.

“I feel like my daughters are keeping me strong,” she said.

Glover wasn't the only woman working at the test site but she says the female SPOs won't come forward with their own stories.

“SOC made a spectacle of me. They used me as a scare tactic. Therefore, nobody else will stand up for me. Nobody else will call out harassment,” she said.

Statement from Centerra:

Centerra, as a leading security provider to many federal government installations around the country, prides itself on its commitment to the safety of its workforce, including creating work environments free from all forms of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Centerra has appropriate procedures in place for employees and managers to report any concerns through their chain of command, or anonymously through the Company’s ethics hotline. Consistent with its policies and procedures, Centerra thoroughly investigated Ms. Glover’s claims and took appropriate disciplinary action. Ms. Glover ceased being employed by Centerra on February 28, 2018, and was hired by SOC when SOC assumed performance of the Nevada contract. As such, Centerra has no knowledge of any personnel actions that occurred after it ceased performance on the contract.

Statement by the U.S. Department of Energy:

“NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration] cannot comment directly on the complaint since it is a personnel matter between the employee and the contractors.  However, actions such as those described in The New York Times article are unacceptable and clearly not in keeping with NNSA’s high standards of personal conduct.

Our Nation depends on us to accomplish national security missions each and every day so it is imperative all our employees feel safe on the job.  At every one of our sites, there are resources available to a victim of any type of misconduct.  Our supervisors and managers routinely encourage employees to immediately seek help in the event of assault, harassment, or reprisal.  Contractor employees are provided avenues to bring concerns directly to NNSA if they choose to do so.

Contractors are required to address allegations of inappropriate behavior with a timely, thorough investigation and hold employees accountable as necessary.  In its oversight role, NNSA is responsible for ensuring contractors provide a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.  We are taking a close look at how this complaint was handled to ensure appropriate steps were taken by the contractors.”

(Editor's note: This interview originally aired Feb. 1, 2019)

Guests

Jay D. Ellwanger, Attorney, Ellwanger Law; Jennifer Glover, former Security Protection Officer (SPO) at the Nevada National Test Site

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