MILWAUKEE -- Heidi Markee is taking a tough stand.
While a cashier at Menard's hardware store in Pewaukee, she claims she was sexually harassed by another employee for seven years.
"I would cry on the way home from work," recalls Heidi Markee.
She is refusing to stay in the shadows of shame.
"He would make illicit comments, sexual comments, and then it progressed from there. Sometimes he would bump into me and he [would] touch me."
"I felt embarrassed and I was wondering what the customers thought."
Heidi says it got so bad that she "would eat lunch in the bathrooms to stay away from him. In the winter time I would eat lunch in my car," she said.
Michelle Banks' checkout line was next to Heidi's. She claims managers were aware of the employee's inappropriate behavior.
"Typically when they saw it happen they heard it, all they did was laugh, look away."
Scared of retaliation, Heidi said nothing.
"I needed the job...I figured a lady of my age, it would be very hard to find another job, that is how I felt."
Maryann Clesceri with the Healing Center is not surprised. She describes three reasons many victims remain silent.
"I won't be believed, somehow I played a part in making this happen, and embarrassed and shame and how this happened to them."
Heidi remained silent, but claims she was eventually fired without cause.
"I worked there for twelve and half years. I did my job well."
It was only after she was fired that she decided to file a sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The federal agency ruled there was evidence to support her claim. I reached out to Menard's corporate lawyer and received a statement from a Menard's spokesperson saying the company will not comment on current litigation.
Heidi provided TODAY'S TMJ4 with an internal memo from Menard's HR coordinator. It shows three women had filed complaints against the same employee Heidi claims harassed her as far back as 2003, four years before Heidi filed her complaint with the EEOC.
Heidi is still recovering emotionally from her time at Menard's. She says speaking out and sharing her story has given her an inner strength she never knew.
"Now that I am coming forth I am glad I am....cause something needs to be done."
Heidi has filed a suit against Menard's for gender discrimination. As of this story's publication, the lawsuit has not been settled.
If you believe you are victim of sexual harassment or abuse, The Healing Center can help you through the healing process. Get more information here.
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