A former executive assistant to the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi has filed a gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against her former boss, accusing the married father of having simultaneous affairs with her and the city attorney and others. The gender discrimination lawsuit alleges plaintiff was fired after ending the relationship, and accused the mayor of firing at least two other city employees who refused the mayor’s sexual advances.
The mayor has vehemently denied the allegations, calling the allegations both “vicious” and “scandalous,” citing this as “egregious character assassination” that was politically motivated.
Although it was no secret the mayor had previously been unfaithful to his wife (he wrote about it in a book and conceded it during a newspaper interview), the issue here is whether alleged relationships with subordinates created a hostile work environment for those employees. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that while the relationship with her supervisor was consensual, she suffered career setbacks after ending it when she reconciled with her husband. First, he began doling out benefits to other workers over here. Then, she alleges, he forced her to continue the relationship by “making it clear” that he intended to terminate her if she refused to further engage in a sexual relationship.
Additionally, plaintiff alleges defendant made numerous inappropriate sexual remarks about other women who worked at City Hall.
In another instance, plaintiff alleged a mayoral campaign contributor arranged a sexual tryst with strippers for the mayor, while plaintiff was asked to watch the door to make sure the encounter would not be interrupted.
She further alleged that the mayor made a demand of oral sex from another female worker in exchange for guaranteed employment.
Beginning in April 2015, she says she began refusing advances made by the mayor. Within a week, another staffer accused plaintiff of engaging in unauthorized use of city equipment. She asserts that city employees illegally accessed her private Gmail account, where they discovered a flyer for her husband’s tax collector campaign. She was accused of city equipment to make copies of that flyer, something she denied. However, she did concede she used her city computer for her own purposes.
The mayor fired her within days.
She now asserts in her employment lawsuit that the mayor, the city and three other workers violated her federal rights. Specifically, she alleges:
- Sexual harassment (violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause);
- Retaliation (also a 14th Amendment violation);
- Violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and Storage Communication Act, in accessing her private emails without permission.
The gender discrimination lawsuit quickly became high-profile, not only because it involves public officials and lurid allegations, but because the mayor involved is both popular and the youngest mayor of the state’s capital city.
The mayor has fired back that plaintiff is a “disgruntled employee” and has raised the possibility of a counter lawsuit for false allegations.
Plaintiff seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
Anytime an employee is exploring the possibility of legal action against a public official – particularly a high-profile one – it requires careful consideration of the right law firm. Bear in mind your attorney will not only be representing you in court, but also in the court of public opinion. A legal team with experience in high-profile cases is a necessity.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Jackson City Hall Rocked by Harassment Suit, Aug. 26, 2016, By Erik De La Garza, Courthouse News Service
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Former Video Game Developer Files $3.1M Employment Lawsuit for Discrimination, Misclassification, Wrongful Termination, July 14, 2016, Costa Mesa Gender Discrimination Attorney Blog