OAKLAND — A former T-Mobile employee who was prohibited from discussing a sexual harassment complaint she made against a superior plans to sue the company in federal court, and labor activists are using her case to call attention to company practice that “muzzles” employees who speak out about working conditions.

At a Tuesday morning news conference near the entrance of the company’s Oakland call center, Angela Agganis, of Waterville, said she worked for the company for nearly eight years and endured repeated sexual harassment from a male superior, including inappropriate touching.

When Agganis complained to human resources about the harassment in August 2014, she was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting her from discussing the investigation with anyone and was told that if she didn’t comply with the terms of the gag order, she could be fired.

Agganis said she signed the agreement but then immediately resigned. Then she went public with her case, enlisting the aid of labor unions including the Communication Workers of America, one of the organizers of Tuesday’s news conference, and the AFL-CIO.

She wanted to tell her story so that other workers wouldn’t be harmed, Agganis said. The CWA represents some T-Mobile workers, but none at the Oakland site.

“People are scared to get fired here,” she told reporters following the event. “I just got to a point where I was more angry than scared.”

Company spokeswoman Annie Garrigan on Tuesday said the company has changed its policies regarding confidentiality, but she said she could not discuss the lawsuit because it has not been filed.

Garrigan said confidentially rules were changed after National Labor Relations Board rulings in March and August that found the company’s practices violated labor law, but those at the rally said they weren’t aware of a change in practices.

In front of a sign naming T-Mobile as “one of the best places to work in Maine,” a small group of labor organizers handed out pamphlets bearing Agganis’ picture with an explanation of her case to drivers coming into the call center.

Standing at a podium bearing a blue sign reading “T-Mobile: we expect better,” CWA organizing coordinator Tim Dubnau said T-Mobile “has a practice of muzzling workers when they speak out.”

“When people are harassed at work, especially when they are sexually harassed at work, they have a right to speak out without intimidation,” Dubnau said.

Before she complained to human resources, Agganis said, she did some research and found out that her superior had a track record of harassment.

“I began to have panic attacks. I said enough was enough,” she said.

Agganis said she asked that her superior be suspended during the internal investigation, but he was not. She quit her job because she didn’t feel safe with him in the building, she said.

Many of the call center workers are young women, and she thought she needed to make her story public to help protect other women from being harassed.

“I just really want all these people to be safe,” Agganis said.

Allison Gray, an employment and civil rights attorney from the Augusta law firm Johnson Webbert and Young, said Agganis filed a complaint in January with the Maine Human Rights Commission and requested and received a right to sue. A lawsuit will be filed against T-Mobile in Maine federal district court later this week, she said.

Labor activists Tuesday said Agganis’ experience was an example of T-Mobile’s practice of silencing workers who complained about workplace conditions or tried to organize.

In August, a judge from the National Labor Relations Board ruled that T-Mobile had violated U.S. labor law in North Carolina and Oakland when it had employees sign confidentiality agreements after opening internal investigations. The ruling required T-Mobile to rescind its policy and inform workers it had violated labor laws.

In March, another NLRB judge ruled that T-Mobile had committed 11 separate violations of labor law at locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wichita, Kansas, Charleston, South Carolina, and New York City. In that ruling, the judge found that the company’s confidentiality requirements, including gag orders during internal investigations, violated workers’ right to talk openly about issues in the workplace.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Garrigan, the T-Mobile spokeswoman, said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommended confidentiality in investigations to preserve integrity and prevent tainted witness testimony.

Since the NLRB rulings, T-Mobile has changed its policies companywide and it no longer requests confidentiality during investigations, Garrigan said. The company is not appealing either NLRB ruling, she said.

T-Mobile does not restrict its employees from discussing workplace issues and stays in regular communication with employees, including conducting anonymous surveys that return with high workplace approval ratings, she said.

A fraction of T-Mobile’s 45,000-member U.S. workforce is represented by the CWA, but the union has tried to organize at T-Mobile for many years, Garrigan said.

“Fewer than 30 (of the company’s employees) have chosen to unionize,” she said.

The union, in partnership with ver.di, the German labor union that represents workers from Deutsche Telecom, T-Mobile’s parent company, has targeted T-Mobile with campaigns claiming that its call center workers face high amounts of stress and unreasonable sales and performance expectations and that the company actively suppresses labor organizing.

At the same time it has encouraged workers to organize by helping create groups such as T-Mobile Workers United for employees of the company and its subsidiary, MetroPCS.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire