ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News investigated accusations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct at GDOT. A former worker resigned last year after what she claims was a disturbing incident involving a supervisor.
The wife and mother of six said she was the victim of sexual harassment and she’s not alone. She said she has spoken to several women with similar stories at GDOT, but they are too scared to come forward because they don’t want to lose their jobs.
“Hello, my name is Shewonna Weaver, HERO operator with Georgia Department of Transportation,” says Shewonna Weaver in a promotional video posted to YouTube in 2019.
In it, she shows us a day in the life of a HERO operator.
“Our primary duty is to clear the roadways of any incident and help traffic resume as normal,” says Weaver in the video.
But the former GDOT employee is now exposing disturbing allegations of gender discrimination, sexual assault and sexual harassment that she said she and several other women endured while working for the state agency.
“Would you say this is a safe place for women to work?” asked Channel 2’s Michael Seiden.
“In its current state, no,” Weaver answered. She said her problems started in 2018 after a supervisor told her that she was taking too many bathroom breaks and followed up by giving her a plastic bag to urinate in.
“I’m a female so, I can’t squat on the side of the road. I can’t get in the back of the truck and take off my clothes. I refuse to,” Weaver said.
She said the stress and pressure from her supervisor led to stomach ulcers.
“I went to the hospital and came back and told him, ‘I have been having stomach issues. I cannot hold my urine like that,’ and he says, ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Weaver said.
She said she filed a formal complaint with GDOT’s human resources, but she claims she never heard a word from them.
She continued working and that’s when she said Reginald Fennelle, a GDOT supervisor befriended her.
“He’s going to protect me. He’s not going to let anything happen,” Weaver said.
But things began to change for the worse. Weaver alleged Fennelle used her to advance his own career.
She also accused him of being inappropriate with her and other women.
In fact, she claimed he talked with her co-workers about having sex with her and eventually the comments turned physical.
“He reaches over my lap and when he reached over my lap and when he’s coming back up he grabs my hand and places it in his groin area, and I snap back and say, ‘What the *@#! are you doing?’” Weaver said.
She told Channel 2 Action News the sexual encounter left her feeling humiliated and violated, but she never filed a complaint with HR because she feared retaliation.
A couple months later, she resigned and filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against GDOT.
In addition to sexual misconduct allegations, she also claimed that GDOT targeted her because she is a woman with a medical condition.
GDOT responded claiming that Weaver never reported any kind of sexual harassment until after she resigned. The EEOC complaint also states that GDOT tried to investigate her claims, but they said they failed to reach her on multiple attempts.
“Everybody’s lost confidence in the process because they don’t respond,” Weaver said.
Channel 2 Action News also reached out to her former supervisor Reginald Fennelle by phone and asked him about the allegations, which he called false. But he declined to go into detail, referring us to GDOT.
“If you were a woman and I were to come to you and ask you, ‘Hey there’s an opening to be an operator at GDOT,' what would you tell me?” asked Seiden.
“Do not do it,” Weaver said.
GDOT gave us the following statement:
“The Georgia Department of Transportation is committed to providing a harassment-free environment for its employees and for those who interact with its employees. To that end, the Department enforces the state of Georgia’s uniform sexual harassment policy, which states that every state employee should be trained regarding the avoidance and prevention of sexual harassment and enforcement of policies and procedures to prohibit sexual harassment. In accordance with that policy, the Department requires mandatory sexual harassment prevention training for all employees, and strictly follows directives regarding the investigation of reports of all forms of harassment in the workplace.”
Weaver said despite what happened to her, she’s committed to changing the culture and hopes her story empowers other women to speak up and take a stand against sexual harassment.
“There’s going to be that 18-, 19-year-old woman who wants to make a career out of it. I need her to be protected,” Weaver said.
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