Mary Barzee Flores was 17, working the night shift at Pizza Hut when her boss followed her into the walk-in freezer.
She had just been installed as the night manager after the previous night manager, the boss’s wife, was ousted after Barzee Flores noticed irregularities on the books.
Her boss was angry.
“The manager followed me in and shut the door,” Barzee Flores said. “He said if I was going to take his wife’s place I would have to do all of her duties, and he made clear what he meant by that.”
Her boss groped her, she said.
“It was terrifying thing to happen, but I pushed him off and told him off and got out of there,” Barzee Flores said.
Barzee Flores is now a 55-year-old lawyer and former judge who is running as a Democrat to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The recent #metoo movement that exploded after high-profile sexual assault and harassment allegations against dozens of men in politics, entertainment and media gives more women the opportunity to speak out about their personal experiences, Barzee Flores said.
She didn’t tell anyone about the Pizza Hut incident at the time, choosing instead to keep working while keeping her guard up. Looking back, she said, it was a “terrible position for a kid to be in.”
“Sexual harassment is a bipartisan issue, it doesn’t have to do with whether you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Barzee Flores said. “It’s an abuse of power when it happens and I think that the last few months with these allegations coming out, whether in politics or Hollywood and workplaces all over the country have been very important.”
And Barzee Flores has been quick to criticize members of her own party who have been accused of sexual harassment.
She was one of the first Democrats to call for the resignation of Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a civil-rights icon and the longest-serving member of Congress, after multiple women accused the congressman of sexual harassment. At least one woman reached a taxpayer-funded settlement with Conyers.
“There is no reason we should hold Rep. Conyers to a different standard than any TV show personality, movie mogul, or corporate leader,” Barzee Flores said last week. “In fact, we must hold him (and every elected official on both sides) to a higher standard. For that reason, given everything I’ve read and seen, Rep. Conyers should resign.”
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