Library employee disturbed by what she alleges at work

By Melanie Posey

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A Birmingham Public Library employee is suing the library alleging several complaints sexual in nature that she says have created a hostile work environment.

Barbara Wilson has worked at the main downtown library since 2002 and says for a number of those years, she had been exposed to pictures and behavior that is morally wrong, at times criminal, and most of all offensive to her, other patrons, and children.

"They have a problem with some people who have realized they can go in there and it's a safe harbor and they can use free computers and look at pornography all day," says her attorney, Adam Morel.

In the suit, Wilson says the way the computers are placed makes it difficult, if not impossible for staff or other patrons to avoid viewing the material.  She says some of the sites are apparent child pornography. It also claims the users go so far as to masturbate in plain view.

"She's brought it to the attention of management. They've done it in the presence of management," Morel says. "They've done it in the presence of other patrons, some of whom are children... young girls and young boys."

Morel says his client has not only verbally complained of the problem, she showed exhibited police reports, incident reports, even written reports.

Wilson told her supervisors of patrons "stroking their  private parts" and "exposing themselves."

"She has been followed by some of the patrons who'd done these things from floor to floor. She's been bumped up against, attempted at least once to touch her body," he adds.

The library's director was out of the office. Therefore, unable to comment Thursday. But in a response to the EEOC complaint Wilson filed in late 2009, the Birmingham city attorney responded by saying that all the library's computers have a program that filters pornographic websites, but that no filter is absolute.

The response states that if a patron is caught viewing pornography, a librarian can remotely send a warning message to the person or completely shut down the website.  Lastly, in denying Wilson's claims of a sexually hostile work environment, the letter says librarians can call security if needed.  But Wilson's attorney balks at that notion.

"They've put a filter on the computers and it's ineffective. It's not a good filter. It's not stopping things.  And more importantly, security is not reacting appropriately when people are violating the policy.  She goes to security and security acts like she's the problem.  It'd be one thing if every other month you had an incident in the library, but that's not what's going on.  What's going on is going on often. And it's not being reasonably addressed."

FOX6 will continue it's efforts to get a response from the director of the library.

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