Disciplinary paddles and a “Wall of Shame” might sound straight out of hazing rituals in a frat house basement. But according to one former employee of North Miami-based Kent Security, a manager in the company used both — along with other humiliating intimidation tactics — against guards working at a gated community in Naples.
“Employees at Kent are working in fear,” says Jose Molero. “I put my heart into that job, but I can’t stand for people being harassed and abused.”
Molero, a 37-year-old Cuban-American who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, began working at Kent in January 2014. The family-owned security firm has become a major force in Florida, New York, and Texas, with close to 2,000 employees and contracts that include work protecting Miami City Hall.
But Molero says he realized almost immediately that his Naples job wasn’t a normal workplace. On one wall inside the employee office, a manager had created a “Wall of Shame,” where she’d pin daily activity reports with mistakes underlined and circled in red marker.
Worse were the wooden slats the manager left on the edge of her desk, which Molero believes were used to intimidate her employees. On one, the words “For Staff Discipline” are printed — though misspelled — in black marker.
In January, Molero filed a formal complaint. On January 30, a district manager responded by email that he saw no problem with the offending manager’s “Wall of Shame,” adding that the guards who don’t like it “need to grow up and act as mature responsible adults and take responsibility for there [sic] lack of performance... If that hurts their feelings then maybe they shouldn’t work here.”
Frustrated, Molero went up the chain, appealing directly to Kent Security CEO Gil Neuman. Molero says he never heard back from the CEO.
Neuman confirmed to New Times that, after an investigation, the manager in question was found to be using the tactics “as a joke.”
“It was obviously a tasteless joke, but supervisors have different styles,” Neuman says. “There’s a certain humor used when people work together, but we explained to her that it would look weird to an outsider.”
Neuman, who sold his Indian Creek property for $47 million in 2011, at the time the largest residential transaction in Miami-Dade County history, added: “These people get paid very little. They’re the true heroes of our economy and society.”
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The Wall of Shame and paddles disappeared from the gatehouse, but the manager kept her job. Molero, meanwhile, was demoted. Fed up, he quit March 20.
Molero has since collected other complaints about the same manager. One employee, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said the manager told him he wasn’t allowed to “dress like a gang member” after she spotted him wearing his own black pants rather than the uniform pants employees are supposed to wear, which he said “run too small.”
This isn’t the first time Kent Security employees have spoken out about what they say is unfair treatment. In 2011, Miami City Hall guards filed a formal complaint to city officials over low wages. Molero has now taken the complaints to the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“From the outside, we’re just guarding beautiful billion-dollar homes,” Molero says. “But in the guardhouse, it’s like its own dark netherworld.”