An employee has filed a lawsuit against the state Human Services Department, alleging officials retaliated against her after she reported she and other female colleagues had been sexually harassed.
Lawyers Allegra Carpenter and Erika Anderson filed the lawsuit in District Court on behalf of Catherine Cameron, a lawyer in the Child Support Enforcement Division, and named the department as the sole defendant.
In an unusual move, the names of the employees accused of sexual harassment and retaliation have been redacted in the court filing.
Cameron’s lawyers said the redactions allow employees to better work together during litigation.
“The depersonalization will make it easier for these people to continue to function in their jobs while this process plays out,” Carpenter said in a telephone interview. “Although there were individual actors in this particular scenario, we’d rather not focus on those actors but on [the department’s] systems and culture that allowed this to happen.”
The lawyers for Cameron said the man accused of sexual harassment no longer works in government.
Jodi McGinnis Porter, a department spokeswoman, said the Human Services Department had not yet been served with the lawsuit and does not comment on employee matters.
According to the lawsuit, the male colleague frequently texted Cameron with “requests for photos of her breasts, requests to visit his home, requests that she participate in a ménage a trois with him and court employee, texted her an X-rated photo, as well as photos of himself.”
The lawsuit also claims the man forced Cameron to have “sexual conduct” with him.
A witness who heard Cameron loudly protest was fired by a female supervisor, and other women were said to have quit over the man’s actions, according to the lawsuit.
When Cameron reported the harassment allegations to her supervisor, the lawsuit said the supervisor “repeatedly and flagrantly failed” to follow department reporting and nondiscrimination polices.
According to the lawsuit, the “resignation/termination” of Cameron’s male colleague was delayed by more than a year due to the supervisor’s actions and came about only as the result of an independent investigator.
The lawsuit alleges the female supervisor “bestowed positive disparate treatment” on the male college, such as providing him with flexible work hours and returning files late. Additionally, the suit says the supervisor did not investigate allegations of “flirtatious email marathon on his work computer” and “manipulat[ed] HSD leave policy to allow [him] to take a three-week self-described ‘Erotic Tour’ of Paraguay.”
Even after her colleague’s resignation, the lawsuit alleges, Cameron was subject to “retaliatory action” — including strictly watched work hours, punitive scheduling and refusals to speak to Cameron in person for nearly three years. The lawsuit also accused the supervisor of not accommodating health issues Cameron developed.
Cameron is seeking double back pay with interest, as well as attorney’s fees, according to the lawsuit.