Lawsuit document


IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO WESTERN DIVISION

CASE NO.: 1:04 C V 572
JUDGE: Beckwith

COMPLAINT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND GENDER DISCRIMINATION FOR COMPENSATORY AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES

JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

FILED: Aug. 26, 2004
JAMES BONlNI, Clerk
CINClNNATI, OHlO

REBECCA L. COLLINS,
9527 Highland Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242

Plaintiff,

V.

MICHAEL K. ALLEN,
Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney
Taft Law Center
230 East Ninth Street, Suite 4000
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
in his official and individual capacity

and

HAMILTON COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS,
138 East Court St.

Room 306

Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Defendants.

INTRODUCTION

This action is brought by a female assistant prosecuting attorney pursued by Defendant Michael Allen for sexual favors, Defendant Allen using the power and influence of his position to induce Plaintiff to enter into an alleged consensual affair with him. Any alleged "consent" was influenced by Defendant Allen's position over Plaintiff. After Plaintiff filed an internal complaint on August 12, 2004, pursuant to the policy of Defendant County and with the hope that the matter could be resolved without the necessity of litigation, Plaintiff believes Defendant Allen improperly failed to notify Defendant County of the allegations and instead attempted to discourage Plaintiff from pursuing the complaint by publicly acknowledging an "affair" on August 25, 2004. Defendant Allen failed to reveal, however, that the internal complaint of sexual harassment had been filed with his office. Plaintiff believes hei career as an attorney in Hamilton County, Ohio, requiring her attendance before judges of Defendant County, has been destroyed by Defendant Allen. Plaintiff believes that any clients she may represent in the future may question whether such judges will treat her differently than other attorneys because of the conduct of Defendant Allen.

PARTIES

1. Plaintiff Rebecca L. Collins is a citizen and resident of the State of Ohio, and a loyal and dedicated employee of Defendant County and Defendant Allen.

2. Defendant Michael K. Allen is the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, an elected official. At all times material hereto, Defendant Allen acted both in his official capacity as agent for Defendant Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners and/or in his individual capacity, as well as in the course of his employment. He is sued individually for damages and in his official capacity for equitable relief. Defendant Allen is an employer within the meaning of federal and state law.

3. Defendant Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners ("County") is a subdivision of the State of Ohio. Defendant County is an employer within the meaning of federal and state law.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

4. This Court has jurisdiction to hear this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §g 1331 and 1343 because the case arises under the laws of the United States.

5. This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 because those claims arise out of the same set of operative facts, making them part of the same case or controversy.

6. Venue is proper in the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), because a substantial part of the events giving rise to these claims occurred in the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

7. On or about August 12, 2004, 13 days before Defendant Allen publicly acknowledged what he called an affair, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint with Defendants alleging that she was the victim of sexual harassment by Defendant Allen. This complaint was filed pursuant to County policy and was a public record. Defendant Allen did not notify Defendant County of the Complaint, which included the allegations in this Complaint, and has denied its existence to others who have made public records requests for the complaint.

8. In June, 1999, after the end of her first year of law school, Defendants hired Plaintiff as an intern in the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney's office after an interview with Defendant Allen for the internship. During the interview, Defendant Allen asked the Plaintiff, "Do you want to work here?" Plaintiff responded, "Yes. I haven't even looked for other summer jobs because I've had this one lined up for a year." Defendant Allen then replied to the Plaintiff, "Well if you want to work here, then you'll do what I tell you to do."

9. From June, 1999-through August, 1999, Plaintiff performed duties as an intern in the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney's office. She performed her duties well and was never disciplined.

10. In June, 1999, during the course of her employment with Defendants as an intern, Defendant Allen contacted Plaintiff, and asked her to go to lunch with him. Plaintiff agreed, and they went to the Plaza 600 restaurant in Cincirnati a few days later. Plaintiff felt compelled to accept Mr. Allen's invitation, given his position of power and influence, and her position as a new employee of the County.

1l. At that lunch, Defendant Allen asked if Plaintiff wanted to be a judge and said that most of the judges come from the prosecutor's office, and that she "should stick around." He subsequently admitted to Plaintiff in the context of their eventual relationship that he had tried at this luncheon to make her laugh so that he could look at her breasts and that he was glad she didn't catch him looking. Plaintiff believes that Defendant Allen planned his subsequent relationship with Plaintiff prior to this initial invitation to lunch.

12. In December, 1999, shortly after both Plaintiffs grandfather and father had died, Defendant Allen telephoned Plaintiff and insisted on coming to see her at her apartment, to which Plaintiff reluctantly and finally agreed.

13. Defendant Allen, who knew Plaintiff was in a particularly vulnerable emotional state at this time, came to Plaintiff's apartment, appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, made sexual overtures to her, and refused to leave her apartment until she had intercourse with him. Plaintiff believed she had no choice but to obey Defendant Allen's demands for sexual favors.

14. From December,1999 until August, 2003, and once more in January, 2004, Defendant Allen used the significant power and authority of his office, his political influence, and his superior age, experience, and economic advantage to obtain sexual favors from Plaintiff, and withheld promotional and other employment benefits and opportunities from Plaintiff.

15. From August, 2003 until August, 2004, Defendant Allen continued to pursue a personal and sexual relationship with Plaintiff. Plaintiff always rebuffed these advances, except for one occasion in January, 2004, when he took advantage of Plaintiffs fragile emotional state at a time she was looking only for support and comfort, not a sexual encounter.

16. From December,1999 through July, 2004, Defendant Allen exhibited bizarre and erratic behavior in manipulating Plaintiff in the pursuit of his own personal and physical pleasure, including, but not limited to, making unauthorized entries into Plaintiff's residence in her absence; making numerous and repeated unsolicited telephone calls to the Plaintiff at her office and at her home; writing numerous, unsolicited letters to the Plaintiff; and making unsolicited, unwanted appearances at Plaintiff's home and office; all of which caused Plaintiff great mental anguish and forced her to seek psychological counseling, which continues to the present time.

17. Since December, 1999, and on numerous occasions thereafter, the Plaintiff was subjected to numerous acts of sexual harassment.
18. From December, 1999 through August, 2003, and once more in January, 2004, Defendant Allen frequently summoned Plaintiff to his office for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse.

19. Defendant Allen made numerous unannounced and unsolicited visits to Plaintiff's office, causing her to close and lock her office door, in order to avoid Defendant Allen. Given Defendant Allen's position of power, Plaintiff sometimes believed it was necessary to allow him to visit.
20. In December, 2003, without solicitation, Defendant Allen left a single red rose an Plaintiff's desk. Plaintiff believed her husband sent the rose, and was greatly distressed when she discovered that Defendant Allen had left it for her.

21. From December 1999 through the present, Defendant Allen made numerous unsolicited phone calls to Plaintiff's office phone, home phone, and cellular phone, causing her to stop answering her phone.

22. By his discriminatory conduct and harassment, Defendant Allen thwarted Plaintiff's career path by discouraging her from taking other positions, and by interfering when other positions were offered to her. In addition, Defendant Allen prohibited Plaintiff from attending office events, political party gatherings, and other activities.

23. In January, 2003, one of Defendants' agents, a First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, told Plaintiff that she could go directly to either the Municipal Division or the Common Pleas Division from her position in the Appellate Division.

24. Because Plaintiff was interested in the opportunity and pleased with the fact that she was being permitted to skip Juvenile Court, the normal next step, she informed Defendant Allen of the offered opportunity.

25. Defendant Allen blocked Plaintiff's promotion to the Municipal Division or the Common Pleas Division, and forced her to accept a position in the Juvenile Division.

26. Defendant Allen had recently permitted a similarly-situated mate employee, Scott Rubenstein, to skip the Juvenile Division, and go directly to the prestigious Grand Jury Division, and then to the Common Pleas Division.

27. Defendant Allen entered Plaintiff's residence numerous times without her knowledge or consent, causing her to feel afraid in her own apartment, forcing her to change her locks in order to maintain some semblance of safety and security.

28. Plaintiff advised Defendant Allen numerous times that she would no longer succumb to his sexual advances. Defendant Allen disregarded Plaintiff's refusals and continued pursuing her.

29. In early 2004, after Plaintiff terminated her relationship with Defendant Allen, he mouthed the words "I love you" as he passed her in the 7" floor back hallway, causing her extreme discomfort and distress. Defendant Allen repeatedly asked Plaintiff for gifts, and Plaintiff did provide a book to Defendant Allen to appease his requests for gifts.

30. In early 2004, after Plaintiff terminated the relationship with Defendant Allen, he kissed her without invitation on the west stairwell landing between the 7" and 8" floors, and she immediately chastised him. In addition, Defendant Alien repeatedly called Plaintiff on the telephone, and Plaintiff sometimes answered the phone or returned his calls to appease Defendant Allen.

31. In April, 2004, Defendant Allen forced Plaintiff to accept a position in the Civil Division instead of the Municipal Division, the usual next step for her career path.

32. Defendant Allen coerced Plaintiff to maintain her office on the 7" floor after her move to the Civil Division, even though other Civil Division attorneys are on the Eighth Floor. Because of this, she was physically removed from her co-workers and deprived of the benefits of working closely with more experienced attorneys. She is currently the only litigation attorney in the Civil Division whose office is on the 7" floor.

33. In 2004, during the time period in which Defendant Allen was coercing Plaintiff to accept a lesser position, he repeatedly urged her to come up to his office to "talk," reminding her that he had gotten her "out of juvenile (division)." Defendant Allen requested Plaintiff to send him pictures of herself, and Plaintiff did send some "non-sexual" photos of herself to appease Defendant Allen, in the hope that he would finally leave her alone. In addition, after Defendant Allen "loaned" Plaintiff $500.00 in cash left in an envelope for her, Plaintiff returned the money by writing a check to Allen, which Plaintiff believes Allen has failed to cash.

34. On one occasion in April, 2004, when Plaintiff came to Defendant Allen's office as he directed, he began to fondle her and attempted to become intimate with her. Plaintiff refused Defendant Allen's sexual advances.

35. Numerous times since December, 1999, Defendant Allen threatened Plaintiff, saying that "If I go down, you go down with me."

36. Defendant Allen's conduct has deprived Plaintiff of promotional opportunities along with the resulting salary increases and other benefits, on account of her sex and in retaliation for her rejection of his sexual advances and her unwillingness to continue providing sexual favors to him.

37. Plaintiff did not welcome, encourage, invite or solicit the above-described harassment. Instead, Defendant Allen coerced Plaintiff to submit to his sexual advances in exchange for continued employment and promised future career advancement opportunities. Plaintiff's submission to sexual harassment was thus imposed on her as a term or condition of employment and created a hostile work environment for Plaintiff.

38. Further, Defendant Allen withheld promotional opportunities and other benefits from Plaintiff, gave her unfavorable work assignments, and treated her unfavorably in the terms and conditions of her employment because of her gender and her rejection of his unwelcome sexual advances. Plaintiffs male co-workers received more favorable working conditions and work assignments.

39. Plaintiff gave Defendants notice of the harassment described above by complaining in writing to Defendants' agent, Carl Stich. Reporting sexual harassment to Defendant Allen would have been futile, given his active participation in the harassment and the affirmative steps he took designed to withhold Plaintiff's advancement in the Prosecuting Attorney's office.

40. Defendants had notice of the harassment described above because such harassment was pervasive and obvious.

41. Defendants failed to take remedial action in response to Plaintiffs complaints.

42. Defendants acted with malice toward Plaintiff and without regard for her constitutional rights by subjecting her to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, by denying her promotional opportunities and favorable work assignments, and by otherwise discriminating against her with regard to tenure, terms, conditions, and privileges of employment, because of her sex.

43. Defendant Allen's conduct described above had a substantial detrimental effect on Plaintiffs employment and on her psychological well-being.

44. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants' actions as set forth above, Plaintiff has suffered loss of wages, loss of fringe benefits, loss of the opportunity to be able to continue the gainful employ in which she had been engaged for the prior years, loss of future earnings, loss of reputation, humiliation, embarrassment, and loss of self-esteem, adverse health effects, cost of relocation to seek other gainful employment, and loss of time and money in endeavoring to protect herself from Defendants' unlawful discrimination, including the costs and reasonable attorneys' fees of this action.

COUNT I
(42 U.S.C. 5 1983)
Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination

45. Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein.

46. Defendants conduct described above unlawfully and unconstitutionally deprived Plaintiff of the equal protection of the law, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, because of her gender as guaranteed by the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

47. Defendants' actions were wilful, wanton, malicious, and/or in reckless disregard of Plaintiffs constitutional rights.

48. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants' discriminatory conduct, Plaintiff has suffered injuries and damages for which she is entitled to recovery.

49. Plaintiff is entitled to judgment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. g 1983.

COUNT II
(Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4112)
Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination

50. Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein.

51. Plaintiff was subjected to unwelcomed harassment by Defendant Allen while employed by Defendants.

52. The unwelcomed acts were directed at Plaintiff on account of her gender.

53. Because of the unwelcomed acts, Plaintiff was forced to work in a hostile, abusive work environment which, because of its pervasiveness and severity, interfered with her ability to perform her duties.

54. Defendant Allen deprived Plaintiff of promotional opportunities and favorable work assignments because of her gender.

55. Defendant County was aware that unwelcomed sexual harassment was occurring due to the open and notorious nature of the harassment, and did not take sufficient action to stop the harassment or prevent future harassment.

56. Because of the unwelcomed sexual harassment and gender discrimination, Plaintiff has suffered severe, traumatic emotional injury.

57. Defendants' conduct violates Ohio Revised Code 4112.02(A), and Plaintiff is entitled to judgment pursuant to Ohio Revised Code § 4112.99.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment against Defendants as follows:

(a) That Defendants be enjoined from further unlawful conduct as described in the Complaint;

(b) That Plaintiff be awarded all lost pay and benefits;

(c) That Plaintiff be granted the promotions she was unlawfully denied or damages in lieu thereof;

(d) That Plaintiff be awarded compensatory damages;

(e) That Plaintiff be awarded punitive damages;

(f) That Plaintiff be awarded pre-judgment interest;

(g) That Plaintiff be awarded reasonable attorneys' fees and costs; and

(h) That Plaintiff be awarded all other (egal and equitable relief to which she may be entitled.

Respectfully submitted,


Michael A. Moses (#0025243) Attorney At Law
330 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215-4510 (614 224-7291\(614)224-7268 (fax) e-mail: ohiomoses@aol.com

Randolph H. Feking (#0009158) Sheila M. Smith (00065115) FREKING 8 BETZ
215 East Ninth Street, Fifth Floor Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 721-1975\(513) 651-2570 (fax) e-mail: randy@frekingandbetz.corn
ssmith@frekingandbetz.corn

TRIAL ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF

JURY DEMAND
Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury.



Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice