When Patty Lebens was hired as the HR manager for PMT Corporation, a medical supplies provider in Chanhassen, she quickly realized that the company had a thing against women and people older than 40.
Though many qualified women would pass through with job applications in hand, hoping to land a spot on the sales team, they were never offered positions. All of PMT’s sales reps were young men.
That was how PMT President Alfred Iversen wanted it, according to a complaint Lebens filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Iversen would tell HR that “Women in sales is a 100 percent fail,” she said. He would rail that women “are a failure at travel” because they needed to be chaperoned on the road. Iversen would then order their applications destroyed.
Iversen was just as bad when it came to older applicants, according to the EEOC lawsuit. He told HR to screen resumes by age. If age wasn’t clear, he told them to turn away applicants with college graduation dates more than 10 years prior.
PMT’s staff stats were damning. From 2007 to the end of 2010, PMT hired at least 70 people as sales reps, not a single woman among them. That wasn’t for a lack of qualified female sales professionals though – the company’s zero rate of women hires was totally out of line with industry standards in the medical supplies field.
After the EEOC told Iversen that it had received complaints about gender and age discrimination at PMT, Iversen added a few women to his sales team – two in 2011 and another in 2012 for a total of three out of 120 salespeople. But behind closed doors, he started “making a constant barrage of threats to retaliate against the unidentified source” of the charges, according to the suit.
Lebens quit in October 2010 after working only a few months at PMT, because her work environment had become impossible. Eventually, the EEOC decided to sue PMT, and Lebens was revealed as the main whistleblower.
Iversen immediately ordered his new HR manager, Luke Wetterlin, to call the Carver County Sheriff’s Office and accuse Lebens of stealing $1,864.89 from the company. Wetterlin alleged that Lebens signed up for health insurance while at PMT, but never paid for it.
When an investigator threatened felony charges against Lebens, she quickly produced letters from PMT proving that she had paid for her health insurance. PMT withheld her entire final paycheck to cover what she owed the company, and had in fact stolen $100 of paid vacation wages from her.
The Carver County Sheriff’s Office eventually decided that PMT’s complaint was pointless, but Lebens said the small investigation embarrassed, humiliated, and frightened her.
“Lebens’ fear was based on her experience working for PMT President Alfred Iversen, whom she knew to be quick to anger, exhibit erratic and threatening behavior, and to carry a gun,” according to the EEOC suit. “For his protection, Lebens sent her son away from home to stay with relatives for a time.”
In addition to discrimination and retaliation, EEOC accused PMT of failing to keep records of all its applicants for up to one year as required by law, in an attempt to cover its ass.
PMT did not respond for comment. It settled the complaint on Monday for $1,020,000, which will be split between Lebens and all the women and people over the age of 40 who applied to PMT between 2007 and 2016.