One former and six current New Castle County, Delaware employees after a series of sexual harassment and assault incidents have filed a federal lawsuit against the county government on June 18th. The federal lawsuit states that high-ranking county police officers repeatedly harassed the plaintiffs because of inaction on the part of county leaders.
New Castle County Government Called Sanctuary for Sexual Harassers
The lawsuit was filed against County Executive Matt Meyer, former public safety director Michael Hojnicki, former lieutenant colonel Quinton Watson, police chief Col. Vaughn Bond, Jr., Chief Administrative Officer Vanessa Phillips, and the County government.
The plaintiffs allege that Watson repeatedly sexually harassed several women over a period of 20 years. The situation was allowed to continue in part because the County willfully discouraged, ignored, and suppressed all complaints made by the women.
The Lawsuit Details Specific Allegations
The lawsuit primarily details sexual harassment incidents by Watson, which includes sexually explicit comments and touching of the women’s’ bodies and his own genitals. It also accuses Bond, Meyer, and Phillips of covering up and condoning the sexual harassment and assault.
There are specific counts among all defendants about creation of a hostile work environment, discrimination based on sex, failure to train and supervise retaliation, sexual harassment, and abuse of power.
The plaintiffs, captain Laura O’Sullivan, captain Patricia Davies, corporal Jessica Neipris, former police officer Lynda Scelsi, budget and procedures analyst Lori Kane and background investigator Margaret Ellwein, as claimed by the lawsuit, suffered derailment of their careers when they voiced their complaints.
The women are seeking damages including back pay, lost wages, front pay, and compensation for severe emotional distress. County Executive Matt Meyer claimed that they took sexual harassment complaints seriously and that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission had already dismissed them.
Proving Sexual Harassment in Delaware
According to the United States Supreme Court, a sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U S. C § 2000e et. seq., can be founded upon gender and sexually hostile work environment. However, it is important to hire an experienced sexual harassment lawyer because the burden to prove prevails on the victim.
The victim of a workplace sexual harassment claim is required to prove the following:
- They suffered gender related intentional discrimination
- The discrimination was regular and pervasive
- The discrimination led to detrimental effects on their life
- The discrimination would have a similar detrimental effect on any reasonable person in the same position and of the same gender
- Respondeat superior liability exists
This makes it necessary to consult with an experienced sexual harassment attorney to navigate through the lawsuit.