• Abuse, sexual harassment alleged at center for disabled


    Fox Undercover (MyFoxBoston.com) -- As far as job interviews go, the one Lyniesha Flavius had to become a direct care worker for the disabled struck her as odd, to say the least.

    "She told me that I have a 5 minute window to (expletive) these clients up," Flavius recalled the woman interviewing her saying.

    "What do you think she meant by that?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked.

    "I believe the statement speaks for itself. (Expletive) these clients up. Physically abuse them," Flavius replied.

    Despite her misgivings, Flavius took the job in 2009 at a center in Brighton run by Vinfen, a human services organization that provides services to adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

    The woman who interviewed her, Linda Williams, became her supervisor after. Things got worse as she says she witnessed Williams abuse clients.

    "Linda spit on a client and Linda took a cup of water and threw it in the client's face and smacked her," Flavius recalled.

    In another incident with another client, "She began to take hand sanitizer and she threw it in his face and she punched him and smacked him."

    And there was something else going on during the two years Flavius worked as an assistant instructor at Vinfen. She says Williams was sexually harassing her.

    "She would physically grab my buttocks area. She would say, "Oh you look sexy. And those pants make your ass look fat,'" she said. Another time, she used a vulgar term to say she'd like to perform oral sex on Flavius.

    Flavius was fired from the job in 2011. She calls it retaliation for complaining about the alleged harassment and alleged abuse of clients.

    Flavius filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, which in April found probable cause that Flavius was harassed by Williams.

    Flavius' attorney, Jessica Hedges, began investigating how the Brighton facility was run.

    "It seems to be that the place is very poorly run and very poorly managed and there is a supervisor there who was abusing clients and sexually harassing Lyniesha, who is abusing her authority," Hedges said

    Hedges discovered something else: two other Vinfen employees told her similar stories about Williams' saying they could abuse clients, describing it like Flavius did.

    "They were told, you have 5 minutes to (expletive) up these clients. Just do it before anybody notices," Hedges said. "Very disturbing."

    Williams, in an interview with FOX Undercover, repeatedly denied doing anything wrong.

    "I've never abused any client," she said.

    "(Flavius) says you told her you have a 5 minute window to ‘f' clients up," Beaudet asked her. "Did you tell her that?"

    "No," Williams replied. "Ask anyone. Ask any other employee that works for Vinfen now or in the past and you will get nothing like that from them."

    "The MCAD did find probable cause for the sexual harassment. What do you make of that?" Beaudet asked Williams.

    "I don't even know what the probable cause is to tell you the truth. I don't know," she replied.

    "Why would she make this stuff up?" Beaudet asked.

    "Honestly I can't tell you what is in her mind. Whatever is going on it all has to do surrounding her, not me," Williams replied.

    Flavius filed multiple complaints against Williams with the state's Disabled Persons Protection Commission alleging abuse and retaliation, but the commission found they were all unsubstantiated.

    However, the retaliation complaint did result in the DPPC's ordering training at Vinfen.

    After speaking with the two other Vinfen employees who corroborated Flavius's story, attorney Hedges filed a complaint in May with the DPPC reporting what she believes is "a chronic culture of abuse" at Vinfen's Brighton location.

    The investigation is still ongoing. Hedges says she's not satisfied with DPPC's actions to date, writing that, "although there have been many investigations, staff are isolated from being interviewed by investigators."

    "Based on what you know, should they be doing something?" Beaudet asked her.

    "Absolutely. Perhaps they are investigating and perhaps they are reaching conclusions. But all I can say is this individual is still working with clients. Still in contact with clients. And so whatever they are doing is not effective," Hedges said.

    Flavius called it "heartbreaking" that Williams is still working for Vinfen.

    But Williams had little interest in replying.

    "I have nothing to say to her," she said. "I just say, we'll see you in court."

    It looks like the two sides will see each other in court. While Flavius and her attorney wait for the DPPC to complete its investigation, they're moving forward with the sexual harassment complaint and are planning to file suit in federal court against Williams and Vinfen.

    Vinfen would not comment on the probable cause finding regarding the sexual harassment. But a spokeswoman sent us a statement responding to the allegations of client abuse: "Vinfen is required to report any allegations of abuse to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission. We do so immediately, even before we have had time to investigate the concerns ourselves. We have reviewed our records and there are no substantiated (as determined by a third party) allegations of abuse by the staff member you inquired about. Vinfen has stringent policies, training and supervision in place to assure that our programs provide safe, effective services to our clients."

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