Archive for Thursday, April 22, 1999


April 22, 1999


The county has until May 3 to respond to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee.

A former Douglas County employee is asking for more than $200,000 in damages from county commissioners and her former boss, saying she was sexually harassed in the summer of 1997 when she worked as a laborer in the county's public works department.

The woman said she was fired Aug. 13, nine days after she gave her supervisor a letter complaining about his behavior.

"I'm humiliated by the whole ordeal, but I'm not going to let it slide," the woman said through her attorney, Bonita Yoder. "I can't believe this is still happening in the '90s. Women have come a lot farther than that."

Yoder filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Topeka March 2, claiming damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Yoder said she and her client chose federal court because the compensatory damage limits for harassment are higher than a state ceiling of $2,000.

The complaint asks for $200,000 in damages, plus pay and benefits for the time she was unemployed and legal fees.

The county has until May 3 to file a response.

"The anticipation is the county will be filing a very strong denial of these claims," Wint Winter Jr., the county counselor, said.

For insurance reasons, the county will be represented by Topeka attorney Deanne Watts Hay in the suit. Hay was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Gerald Cooley, who is representing the woman's supervisor, said he wouldn't comment until the county and his client filed their response.

Yoder said her client already turned down a settlement offer of $2,000 from the county during a mediation session last April. Winter said he couldn't talk about any settlement discussions.

The complaint details the treatment the woman received from her supervisor while working for the county in June, July and August of 1997.

The supervisor gave her massages, hugged her from behind and grabbed her, the suit says.

The supervisor also made sexual comments to the woman, according to the suit.

"She experienced his comments several times a day, every day," Yoder said.

Yoder said the woman was humiliated and the situation made for a hostile work environment.

The woman complained in writing Aug. 4, 1997, according to the suit.

That day the supervisor drove to the woman's house and apologized but made a sexual comment in the process, the suit says.

When the woman arrived at work Aug. 13, 1997, the office secretary asked her if she was there to sign her termination papers, which the woman signed, the suit says.

According to county records, the woman was on the payroll from March 31, 1997, to Sept. 12, 1997. She was paid $7 an hour, said Pam Madl, county director of administrative services.

The lawsuit says the supervisor drove by the woman's house numerous times, both while she was working for the county and as recently as January.

"If that weren't bad enough then it got scary," Yoder said. "His driving by was the last straw."

The woman moved out of Douglas County Feb. 1 because she felt threatened, Yoder said.

According to the suit, the supervisor did not receive "adequate discipline." He remains an employee of the county.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is

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