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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Harassment Doesn’t Get Much Clearer

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - A bus mechanic wants punitive damages from co-workers for their "uncivilized conduct" in a "tea bagging" incident on his last day on the job.

In a federal lawsuit, Kevin Hoit claims a 300-lb. co-worker threw him to the ground and held him there while a foreman tea-bagged him.

Tea-bagging is "a sexual act which involves an individual placing their testicles on another person," according to the Feb. 5 complaint.

Hoit says he suffered physical injury and emotional trauma, as news of the incident spread by word of mouth and via a picture posted on Facebook.

Named as defendants are the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), the public transit provider in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area; the agency's chief executive and two maintenance officials; and three co-workers who allegedly took part in the incident: Juan Baez, Tony Clanton and Frank Mancini.

Hoit claims he was assaulted in late 2013 as he worked his last shift.

At around 7 p.m. on Nov. 7, Hoit says, he was changing a compressor on a bus at the CDTA garage when Clanton, another mechanic, grabbed him from behind.

Hoit says he yelled out to be left alone and tried to flee, but at 6 feet and 300 pounds, Clanton was "substantially larger." Clanton "picked him up in the air and dropped him face down on the ground," according to the complaint, pinning Hoit's arms behind him.

Baez, a CDTA foreman, then approached laughing, the complaint states, and told Hoit "he had a going-away present."

"Defendant Baez then dropped his pants, and got on his knees in front of Mr. Hoit's head," the complaint states. "Defendant Baez then manipulated his genitals and placed his testicles on the top of Mr. Hoit's head, attempting to 'tea bag' him."

Baez "also placed his unclothed penis on Mr. Hoit's head," according to the complaint.

Hoit says he tried to break free, but the incident lasted several minutes as Baez laughed and let other employees - including Mancini, another foreman - take pictures. When he finally was released, Hoit says, he angrily walked out of the garage.

The complaint includes an image allegedly taken of the incident that identifies Baez in his blue CDTA shirt, Clanton holding Hoit down and Mancini at far left in the photo "taking a picture of the incident and smiling."

Hoit claims that over the next few days he heard from CDTA employees in other counties who heard about or had been sent picture of "him being 'tea bagged,'" and saw a photo posted on Facebook. He says his stepfather, who works for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City, also heard about the incident.

Hoit says he suffered "severe anxiety and depression" and continues to take medication and seek psychological counseling.

He claims that CDTA has faced complaints before about Baez and Clanton, including another alleged tea-bagging episode and one in which the men tackled and "pretended to rape" a fellow worker "by 'dry humping' him." And he says a female CDTA call-taker also filed a sexual harassment claim against Baez.

"Given the pattern and practice of misconduct engaged in by CDTA employees, defendant CDTA and supervisory officials of the CDTA ... knew or should have known of the desperate need to implement more stringent supervision and/or discipline of their subordinates," Hoit says in the lawsuit.

CDTA's chief executive, Carm Basile, did not respond to an email on Monday seeking comment.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the agency told the Albany Times Union that it had not received a copy of the complaint but was aware of the allegations because Hoit had filed a notice of claim.

The complaint does not seek punitive damages from CDTA. But because the actions of Baez, Clanton and Mancini "were extreme and outrageous, and shock the conscience of a reasonable person," they merit punitive damages "to punish the defendants for the cruel and uncivilized conduct," Hoit says.

He also seeks compensatory damages from all defendants, plus wants attorneys' fees and court costs.

Hoit is represented by Elmer Robert Keach III, in Albany.

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