Complaint alleges sexual harassment at Islands Tanning

Complaint alleges sexual harassment at Islands Tanning »Play Video
KATU photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The state of Oregon is investigating a worker’s claim that she was fired from a tanning salon chain for reporting allegations of sexual abuse and harassment on the job.

The new development surfaced after KATU last week looked at business complaints filed against Islands Tanning. In that report, we dug through more than 30 complaints from customers who said they were ripped off.

Now, a former Islands Tanning employee said she was groped by a manager and then was fired when she reported it to police.

The complaint, which was filed with the Bureau of Labor and Industries, details how the worker said she was forced to send naked pictures of herself to a manager in order to keep her job.

Separate from the complaint, a different former worker contacted us to tell us about problems at the business.  She also described a toxic work environment, erratic behavior from bosses and verbal abuse.

She spoke to us, but didn’t want her real name published out of fear. We’ll call her Ashley.

She said the two months she worked at Islands Tanning during 2012 were miserable.

Ashley said the problems start with company president Jon Guyette.

“He’s totally verbally abusive,” she said. “He would call people the b-word, anything he can think of.”

Ashley said many of her co-workers were young and desperate for work in the down economy.

“The girls that work there, they need a job,” she said. “It’s hard to live without a job and if you quit you don’t get unemployment.”

Ashley said the environment at Islands Tanning was ripe for the kind of allegations in the BOLI complaint, which was filed in March.

The worker who filed the company, who is 18 years old, alleges general manager Matt Farmer told her to send him naked pictures to get a job at the Tigard salon. She said she finally agreed, but claims the problems continued, causing her great stress.

She said she also got comments like “go clean the tanning bed so I can watch you bend over” and “you’ve never had sex until you’ve (expletive) an older guy like me,” according to the complaint.

And one point, she said Farmer cornered her in a tanning room and groped her against her will.

She said she complained to the assistant manager, but nothing was done. That’s when she said Farmer cornered her and chastised her for complaining.

On June 12, 2012 she reported the groping to Tigard Police and then was fired the next day.

Farmer no longer works at Islands Tanning, although the company won’t tell us why not. He did not face any criminal charges stemming from this alleged incident, but does have a history of theft, harassment and drug convictions.

We contacted Guyette for comment. He did not answer all of our questions for this story, but he did say by email that Islands Tanning disputes the allegations in the BOLI complaint and has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment.

He said the company conducts a thorough and responsive investigation of every complaint.

We also reached out to Farmer for his side of the story but did not hear back.