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Sexual harassment claim: Criminal charge was retaliation

A female city code enforcement officer in Texas is facing a criminal charge which she claims is an act of retaliation. She alleges that the criminal charge was brought about in response to her civil suit against the city for sexual harassment. The criminal charge levied against her carries a possible punishment of as much as a $4,000 fine and a year in jail. The woman filed a second civil suit against the city claiming that the criminal charge is an act of retaliation.

According to the city employee, the problems began when her supervisor started harassing female employees from the time he took on his position within the code enforcement department. She alleges that the supervisor made a variety of sexually inappropriate gestures in front of her. She also claims that repeated complaints that she made to both supervisors and human resources personnel over a year-long period between 2011 and 2012 went unheeded. The woman eventually filed the harassment civil suit against the city.

After she filed an initial complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission regarding the supervisor's harassment, the city opened a citizen complaint about her and she was interviewed by a Texas Ranger regarding the matter. She was later indicted by a county grand jury on charges of interfering with a community cleanup by threatening one of the participants with a citation. The woman alleges in her second civil suit that the actions taken against her are retaliatory and are in response to her moving forward with her harassment complaint.

In its first response to the initial sexual harassment suit, the Texas city claimed it took reasonable care to correct the problem and that the woman did not take reasonable advantage of the city's corrective actions. Since then, the city's spokesperson has declined to make any further comments regarding the case. The city has requested that the employee and her legal representation state the maximum amount of damages that they expect to receive for emotional pain and suffering and litigation costs, but the employee appears to be hopeful of pursuing the matter's conclusion through a jury trial. Regardless of what actions an employer -- public or private -- might take, an employee who feels he or she has been wronged should seriously consider seeking outside and knowledgeable advice and assistance rather than simply enduring the on-the-job harassment.

Source: Denton Record Chronicle, "Worker files suit against Denton," Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, July 11, 2013

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