Touching Story

Businessman Jim Blythe lends a hand in the wrong places, employees say

During the last three years, Blythe-Nelson's golf tourney sponsorship helped the clubs raise between $20,000 to $30,000, and he often offers his skybox for the children or as an auction item to raise money, Kromer says.

Blythe also supports the Mammogram Foundation, the Women's Leadership Conference, Rainbow Days and many other charitable organizations. He is, in other words, considered a kind and generous man by many touched by his giving. Those who say Blythe touched them in less welcome ways tell another story.

Among them is Shirley Turner, who claims she suffered repeated professional and personal embarrassment at Blythe's hands.

A 30-year AT&T employee, Turner was drawing more than $100,000 a year in salary and benefits as the North Texas business manager before Jim Blythe recruited her in 1997, she says in her affidavit filed with the federal lawsuit in Sherman.

Almost right away, Turner realized something was terribly wrong.

Besides learning that she wouldn't be given partner status as she says Blythe promised, she found Blythe's interest in women at the office was unusually high. (Blythe claims he's interested in all of his employees, not just the women who make up about half the Blythe-Nelson workforce.)

"Mr. Blythe's conduct was outrageous based on his pervasive attitude and actions of engaging in sexually explicit, demeaning, and degrading conduct toward the female employees and contributed to a sexually hostile work environment," Turner's affidavit says. "It became quite clear to me that Mr. Blythe's obsession with sexuality toward BN's female employees was an inherent part of the BN culture and environment."

Turner says that "between five to eight female employees" were given company-financed gifts from Victoria's Secret and allowed to train for hours at a time during the workday at the Exchange Athletic Club (sometimes under Blythe's eye).

During her first month, she attended a Ranger's game at Blythe's luxury box.

"I went out on the balcony to talk to Mr. Blythe, who was standing next to Mr. Chester [a partner] and thanked him for the opportunity to work with BN. Mr. Blythe grasped me, kissed me, closed mouthed, on the lips," her statement says.

"Mr. Blythe did not release me and stated that he wanted me to give him a French kiss so he 'could taste my tongue.' I pulled away from him, stating that I was not going to French kiss him and he should go back to watching the game."

A few minutes later, she left the game.

The next week, she says, Blythe asked about a photograph of Turner's oldest daughter. He wanted to know when he was going to be introduced because, "she looked like she was built like her mom, while using his hands to depict big breasts."

In August, Turner fell and suffered a possible hairline fracture of the pelvis. She told Blythe that she would need time to meet with doctors and possibly work at home.

"Mr. Blythe immediately asked if I was sure I had fallen or whether or not I had a weekend of 'hot sex.' I remained professional and restated the fall. Mr. Blythe asked if he could 'kiss it' to 'make it better.'"

In September, at a dinner at The Old Warsaw restaurant with Blythe-Nelson clients, Blythe repeatedly asked that she remove her jacket to show her breasts and upon leaving the restaurant, shoved a wine bottle up her skirt, she claims.

Turner, who would not agree to be interviewed personally for this article, further states in her affidavit that she sought the help of Mart Nelson but was rebuffed and told that Blythe is merely "gregarious."

After that, she says in documents, she was "constructively" fired for refusing to attend the company's social events.

She suffered "emotional anguish" as a result of her experience at the company and became bedridden and housebound, she says.

A second of the three women suing Blythe-Nelson is Alyssa Wright, whom Blythe hired in 1994 to manage the company's hospitality suite at The Ballpark at Arlington, according to EEOC documents. Two years later, Blythe, who apparently had become struck with Wright, harshly admonished her for talking to a former boyfriend. She quit after Blythe bawled her out, but then agreed to stay on with the company.

Later, at The Old Warsaw restaurant, Wright told the EEOC, he pinned her against a wall, put his hand up her skirt and said he wanted to know the color of her panties.

The next month, (December 1997 and after Turner filed her complaint with the EEOC) Blythe left Wright voice messages in which he said her job had been eliminated because she had not produced business, and he expressed surprise that she might back Turner's claims.

"...You know, Alyssa, you were my biggest defender. You were my closest friend. You were my right arm. For you to turn on me is worse than 'et tu, Brute,' Blythe said in one message transcribed in EEOC documents.

"You better grow up, you better learn what you should do, when you say what you're supposed to do. I cannot believe the way I supported you...The way I supported you throughout the time you were in the firm that you would do this to me, Alyssa."

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