Time Magazine named the 2017 Person of the Year "The Silence Breakers" for all those speaking out against sexual harassment.
Tiffany Celotto of Eden shared her story with 2 On Your Side's Emily Lampa.
"There's no reason for anyone to think that they have the right to sexually harass or discriminate against anyone," Celotto said. "And if we do standup together and if we do work together things will happen...things will change. And that's what needs to happen."
Celotto is a traffic signal technician with the New York State Department of Transportation. She was hired into this male dominated industry in 2013. She is the only female technician working at the Evans Street DOT location in Hamburg.
She says the harassment came mostly from her former supervisor, whom she asked remain unnamed because of pending lawsuits. She currently has an open case against that supervisor as well as the State Department Of Transportation, for how they handled her sexual harassment claims.
The DOT released the following statement to 2 On Your Side about the harassment claims.
DOT has zero tolerance for harassment of any kind in the workplace. Accordingly, after a thorough investigation of the facts in this matter, the agency took immediate and appropriate disciplinary action against the employee in question, who is no longer in state service.
Celotto tells Channel 2 the sexual discrimination started on day one.
"My supervisor asked me if I planned on having other children because that would affect his decision on hiring me," she said.
Tiffany claims he never touched her physically, but the harassment came in many forms, "He would not call me by my name. He would call me 'her,' 'she,' 'the woman.' He would call me anything but Tiffany."
A coworker supported this claim in a sworn statement, stating the supervisor "never called Tiffany by her name. Instead, he referred to her as "woman." He would say things like, "woman, so this."
Tiffany says her former supervisor would also comment on her physical appearance.
"I dress in jeans and t-shirts, hoodies...just like all my other colleagues," Celotto said. "Makeup is not something that is going to be on my schedule because I'm outside all day long, I get dirty. I wear a hardhat all day, a vest and work boots. And, so, him making comments about my appearance made me feel very uncomfortable because he never commented about anybody else that I worked with. It's singling people out."
When asked what kind of comments were made, Tiffany recalled one particular instance.
"I had gotten false eye lashes at one time and he made a comment that they looked sexy and that I could be dead and I would still look sexy," she recalled.
We asked Tiffany how her coworkers reacted to this behavior, and she says they "would all sit there and just...like it wasn't happening."
Tiffany hired local attorney, Lindy Korn, to represent her. In January, they filed a formal complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.
2 On Your Side obtained a copy of the documents filed, which shows all the alleged inappropriate behavior documented since 2013.
The evidence included in that complaint shows that this former supervisor allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to Tiffany, some sent over group messages, which included other male coworkers.
"It makes me feel like he's putting it out there to allow other people to disrespect me," said Tiffany of the texts, "and I'm not okay with that."
As a Traffic Signal Technician, Tiffany explains that her job is to maintain and repair traffic signals on state roads. But Tiffany says she had additional responsibilities that her male co-workers didn't have, such as cleaning the NYSDOT location on Evans Street in Hamburg.
"I was told it was 'women's work' by my supervisor," recalls Tiffany, "I had to clean the bathrooms. I had to clean the shop. I had to clean his office area. And I had to remove all the garbage."
Tiffany believes when she got pregnant in the Fall of 2013, the harassment and discrimination compounded.
She describes giving her supervisor written notice from her doctor, "When I tried to hand it to him, he threw it back at me in an aggressive way, you know, right to my face."
Tiffany alleges when she asked for lighter duty during her pregnancy, to avoid heavy lifting, her former supervisor would say, "it's not my problem."
She says some of her coworkers stepped up during this time, "I was lucky enough to have a few of my coworkers that would help me at times and were very understanding of the situation, but if it wasn't for them I was left to do it on my own."
After she had her baby, Tiffany says the gender discrimination picked up right where it left off when she returned to work. She accuses her former supervisor of not providing an appropriate place, nor time, to express milk for her newborn.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk." Employers are also required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk."
The complaint Tiffany submitted to the state includes pictures of the various bathrooms at state dormitories, gas stations, and area businesses along her work route, where she alleges she was forced to pump, given no better options.
The complaint sent to the Division of Human rights also shows that Tiffany allegedly reported her supervisor's behavior to his direct supervisor four times, "I was told that my supervisor had days like this, that at times he would go off on tangents. 'Just ignore him and it would go away'."
Tiffany says reporting the harassment initiated retaliation, "My supervisor had accused me of having sexual relations with one of my other coworkers. And he accused me of having relations with my coworker that resulted in my son. And that was enough."
But by the end of 2016 she reached out to her union and the New York State Department of Transportation office in downtown Buffalo.
She tells Channel 2, they investigated her claims, but during that time she was still working with that supervisor and that the harassment continued, "If I went to complain. then he would go further with it...every single time."
Considering how many times Tiffany reported the behavior, she believes the state could have done more. However, she is grateful that the state did eventually assign her a new supervisor, "I do feel like they, as people, are doing a really good job and trying their hardest to pick up the pieces of what was a real mess, and so I appreciate that. And I do think that they're very sensitive to the topic, but I do feel like the relationships between myself and coworkers is damaged to the point where I don't know where it would ever work itself out."
The Division of Human Rights responded, to the complaint Tiffany filed, saying she does have probable cause. This means her case can move to an administrative hearing.
She and her attorney are now waiting for a hearing date to be scheduled. In a prior interview, Tiffany's lawyer, Lindy Korn, explained that sexual harassment cases are extremely hard to prove.
But Tiffany tells Channel 2 she understands the tough road ahead of her and is willing to see it through, "The faces that I go home to are the most important and that's all I care about. And that's also why I'm doing this. I have a daughter, and I will make sure that she is a very strong, strong individual. And I'll make sure that my son respects and treats people equally."