An Iowa county attorney, Abraham K. Watkins, was suspended indefinitely by the Iowa Supreme Court on June 19th, 2020 over sexual harassment allegations. Watkins allegedly subjected his assistant to numerous demeaning comments about her female body parts and gender for over two years.
Watkins Said to Create a Toxic Workplace Culture
The Iowa Supreme Court commented that sexual harassment was a major problem in the legal profession and could have devastating effects on women in at all career levels. The court rejected an appeal to suspend the lawyer for 30 days.
Watkins had a private practice out of his home and worked part time as the county attorney in Van Buren, Iowa. He hired his assistant in 2014 as per court documents and allegedly made her feel inferior over the course of the next two years. He would criticize her in front of customers and frequently resorted to sexually motivated harassment.
Watkins Routinely Made Gender Inferior Comments
The plaintiff stated in the lawsuit that at one time Watkins asked whether her vagina was broke after she was late for work because of a gynecology appointment. He would wear only his boxer shorts while working from his home office and once showed her an inappropriate picture of his wife’s vagina.
The Van Buren County Board of Supervisors sought to remove him from office as soon as they came to know about the behavior. But, the state high court reversed their decision of removal stating the high burden required of doing so.
Subsequently, the court’s disciplinary board filed a complaint stating that Watkins violated the rule prohibiting sexual harassment. They ultimately recommended a six month suspension, but the state grievance commission hearing panel asked for a 30-day suspension.
However, the Iowa Supreme Court suspended him indefinitely with no possibility of being reinstated after 6 months.
Sexual Harassment Litigations in Iowa
Sexual discrimination and harassment tend to create a miserable environment at workplace. They can interfere with an individual’s ability to carry out their job responsibilities. It is necessary to consult with a sexual harassment lawyer before filing a lawsuit since the behavior needs to be demonstrable, overt, and documented.
In general, sexual harassment at the workplace is of the following forms:
- Unwanted touching – pinching, caressing, grabbing
- Sexually suggestive emails
- Showing sexually explicit pictures in the work environment
- Comments about getting a promotion in return for sexual behavior
- Continued unwanted overtures
- Sexually explicit or derogatory jokes
- A pattern of hires or promotions of young and attractive women (or men)
Sexual harassment attorneys can help victims understand their rights and litigate successfully.