The Professional Convention Management Association has been slapped with a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit brought by its former controller, Pamela M. Boyles. In her complaint, Boyles says that her supervisor, William J. Myers, CAE, CMP, "meowed" at women staff members, commented on women's appearances and anatomies, rubbed her shoulders while looking down the front of her blouse, and grabbed and sucked her finger after she cut it while working on a computer. Myers, who was COO, was fired by PCMA for violation of its sexual harassment policy in October, about a month after the lawsuit was filed.

Not only was PCMA a sexually hostile environment, says Boyles, but her salary was half that of male executives at her same professional level.

Another former PCMA employee, La Verne Croom, who served as vice president of administration, has also filed a complaint concerning compensation, but not harassment, with the EEOC.

Boyles, who is now employed elsewhere, worked for PCMA from October 1, 1995, until she resigned June 23, 1997. Four months later, in November 1997, she filed her complaint with the EEOC. Once EEOC responded by sending her a "right to sue" letter, she filed the lawsuit.

Myers and PCMA deny the charges. "The facts will show that PCMA did not discriminate against either of these individuals," says Ruth W. Woodling, attorney with Fisher and Phillips LLP. Woodling is representing PCMA in this case. "The quotes in the complaint are intended to be inflammatory," she says.

In a memo sent to PCMA members on October 19, PCMA president Mickey Schaefer, CAE, points out that Boyles never reported being sexually harassed during the time she was employed. Asked whether PCMA would be strengthening its sexual harassment policy and offering training to staff, Schaefer responded, "PCMA has a very strong policy in place, which is updated from time to time, as necessary to keep pace with societal and governmental influences. In March, staff participated in annual sensitivity sessions in the area of sexual harassment and hostile work environment."

As for the salary discrimination charges, Schaefer says PCMA salaries are based upon PCMA's formal salary administration program, which is established using a formula devised by the Hay Group, a company that specializes in analyzing association employee salaries. Boyles' and Croom's salaries, Schaefer explains, were within Hay Group guidelines.

Although Myers is the only individual defendant named in the complaint, Boyles also claims that Roy B. Evans Jr., CAE, executive vice president and CEO of PCMA, furthered a sexually hostile workplace by making derogatory comments about women.

Evans emphatically refutes the allegations. "I have had female staff members tell me they have never heard me talk like that," he says. "I have a wife, two daughters, a mother, and three sisters. I don't think of women [in a derogatory way]. I hope female members of the association realize we had a challenge and we dealt with it."

As for PCMA, "the board has supported Roy throughout this process," says Schaefer. Meanwhile, PCMA has begun its search for a new COO. "We are looking all over the country for the best possible person," says Evans. Would he consider hiring a woman? "Absolutely," he says, "if she is the best candidate."