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Texas county employees fired after reporting sexual harassment

Two Texas women were fired from their jobs after they reported that they were being sexually harassed by a county judge, according to an ongoing legal dispute between the former employees and the county.

After they filed the complaints, which alleged that the judge touched them inappropriately and sent them pornographic emails and text messages, the judge resigned and faced criminal charges and fines. The employees who suffered from the harassment filed a federal lawsuit against the judge, the county where they worked, and another government entity. One of the issues in this case that remains contested is whether the county can be held liable for failing to stop sexual harassment by an elected judge.

The county says that they should not be held liable, since the harassment technically took place under the purview of the Juvenile Board, which they believe is a local, not a county entity. While these questions seem far removed from the matter of whether or not employees were harassed at work, the conflict shows the importance of the technicalities of a lawsuit. The issue here that since the county didn't actually commit the unlawful acts, they are only liable vicariously as the entity responsible for the judge's conduct. However, if they are successful in convincing the court that they are not responsible for this conduct, then the women who were harassed will not be able to seek compensation from them in this case. They may still be able to seek compensation from the Juvenile Board or from the judge.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Wayward Judge Lawsuit Won't Face Further Delay," Cameron Langford, Jan. 30, 2013.

More information about sexual harassment in the workplace is available on our San Antonio employment law page.

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