Monday, March 17, 2014

Exclusive: Family Research Council Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit



By EVAN GAHR

Exclusive: The Family Research Council has quietly settled, quite possibly for money, a lawsuit brought by a woman who they fired after she complained about sexual harassment by her supervisor, William Saunders, a prominent anti-abortion lawyer. He pressured her to attend parties and frequently opined that young women who use birth control pills are “whoring around.”

Another embarrassment: after the Family Research Council dismissed Moira Gaul she unsuccessfully sought employment with three different GOP bigwigs, including John Boehner.

The settlement, which has not been reported anywhere, ends a more than four year legal odyssey for Gaul, a longtime conservative activist, who had thrived at the Family Research Council until she allegedly suffered sexual harassment.

The Family Research Council hired Gaul in March 2005 as an abstinence coordinator. She was later promoted to Director of Women’s and Reproductive Health. Although her main focus was abstinence education Gaul was frequently quoted by the media about abortion and the HPV vaccination for young girls, which the Family Research Council and most other social conservatives strongly oppose.

According to Gaul, a prominent anti-abortion lawyer named Bill Saunders was harassing her even before he became her direct supervisor in early 2007. The harassment then “escalated,” Gaul alleged.

An internal FRC memo, which I found after going through hundreds of pages of court documents, says that Gaul complained to the Family Research Council in 2007 that Saunders was “verbally abusive” towards her.  (Click for larger view.)



The June 2, 2008 memo from FRC Vice President for Policy Peter Sprigg to the HR department says that the FRC “disciplined” Saunders after Gaul complained about him.  

But much to her chagrin, Gaul was forced to continue to report to him.  

In January 2009, Gaul filed a gender discrimination complaint--you can not file for sexual harassment--with the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission in January 2009.(Click for larger view.)




In that complaint, which I obtained by going through hundreds of pages of court documents,  Gaul says that the Family Research Council’s Director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics “pressured me to attend parties,” sent her mails addressed “hi cutie” and “referred to the use of birth control pills by young women as ‘whoring around.’” In general, “his attitude towards me and other women was rude, belittling and at times angry.”

According to multiple news accounts, the Director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics during the time that the sexual harassment was alleged to take place was Bill Saunders

Saunders did not respond to repeated emails.

Gaul’s lawsuit claimed that the Family Research Council quickly retaliated against Gaul after she filed a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights about him.

In January 2009, Gaul who had a number of health problems that the Family Research Council previously had gone out of its way to accommodate was forced to go on short term disability leave.

“The Family Research Council’s Vice President of Administration assured her that her health insurance would continue through her short-term disability leave,” the lawsuit says.  
But following her complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights “FRC’s Vice President of Administration informed Gaul that the Family Research Council was retroactively canceling her health insurance for the period she was on short term disability.”

When she returned to the work and the Family Research Council failed to give her health insurance against Gaul, desperate for coverage, “contacted various members of management and Human Resources for help.”

A top FRC official then “threatened to issue another reprimand for insubordination if she attempted to raise the issue of her health insurance again.”

Gaul has previously received two excellent reviews at the FRC and no reprimands. But after she filed the complaint the FRC hit her with three reprimands. One concerned turning in a time sheet late; the second was about missing a radio interview due to a miscommunication and a third was for insubordination.

Her sexual harassment complaint was settled on July 31, 2009 but the hostility continued, the lawsuit says. 

Finally, on October 23, 2009, the Family Research Council fired Gaul.

According to her lawsuit, the stated reason was a “reduction in federal funding to the abstinence movement” and the need for a person in the position “with a background in a variety of ‘life issue’ areas beyond abstinence, which [FRC] claimed that Ms. Gaul did not have “

(Wow! Who knew that the Family Research Council, scourge of big government, was actually on the federal dole?)

On July 26, 2011, Gaul filed a federal lawsuit against the Family Research Council, alleging illegal retaliation under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This non-blog blog broke the story of the lawsuit in  December 2012. It was then picked up by the Huffington Post,  TalkingPointsMemo, Wonkette, ThinkProgress and the Washington Blade.

The lawsuit says the stated rationales for Gaul’s dismissal were really just excuses for retaliation. There was funding available and Gaul had experience in many areas beyond abstinence.

“Federal funding for abstinence education continued after Ms. Gaul was terminated, and, three months after her termination, the FRC created a new position with duties substantially similar to those previously performed by Ms. Gaul.”

In its motion for summary judgment the FRC asserted that Gaul had no right to claim retaliation based on the complaint because on her sexual harassment complaint because it was settled and therefore legally moot. “Plaintiff can not show that her position was eliminated in response to any protected activity she engaged in or that the Defendant exhibited unlawful or otherwise prohibited behavior.”

In other words, the Family Research Council wanted to pretend like the sexual harassment never happened.

In May 2013, both sides had mediation with Federal Magistrate Judge Alan Kay in Washington, DC. The case was settled on July 25, 2013. It is impossible to tell from the publicly available documents about the settlement what the terms were.

But several employment lawyers interviewed all said they believed it was very likely the Family Research Council paid to settle the case.

Rich Cohen, an employment lawyer, told this reporter that, “It would appear to me there is a very strong possibility money was paid” to settle the case.

Cohen, who exclusively represents employers, says cases like this lawsuit, with its extended legal wrangling and an unsuccessful attempt by the defendant to obtain a summary judgment in its favor, are often settled for money.

He says another reason to believe that there was a monetary settlement is that the case was settled shortly after both sides had mediation before a federal magistrate. “That would militate in favor of the conclusion that the mediator was able to broker a deal.”

It certainly sounds from Gaul’s reaction to the settlement that the Family Research Council paid money to make its sex scandal go away.

Jeffrey Landis, the lawyer for Gaul, told this reporter that “Ms. Gaul is very pleased and satisfied with the outcome.”  

According to her legal papers Gaul tried dozens of times to find work with conservative organizations but was unsuccessful.

Besides John Boehner, Senator Saxby Chambliss and House Republican Deputy Whip Kevin Brady, she was turned away by Concerned Women for America, a Christian Right mainstay, Americans United for Life, and the American Life League.

Landis says that Gaul finally obtained full employment in December 2012. But he refuses to say where she works or if her employer is a conservative organization.

Bill Hickey, the lawyer for the Family Research Council, did not respond to repeated emails.  

Meanwhile, Gaul’s supervisor, Bill Saunders who had worked at the FRC for years left the organization shortly after Gaul filed a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights in about him.  

He decamped to the Americans United for Life, which is tied to prominent conservative thinkers in the country, such as Weekly Standard contributing editor Yuval Levin, a leading Republican Party intellectual.

Americans United for Life head Charmaine Yoest did not respond to repeated requests for comment about Saunders.

Evan Gahr, a former press critic for the late New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel, has written for almost every major conservative publication. He recently broke the story of a race discrimination lawsuit against the Washington Post.

Twitter: @EvanGahr


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sexual Harassment Cover-Up


By EVAN GAHR

The affair ended. The abuse began. The cover-up for years and years ensued.

New York State Psychiatric Institute officials continually ignored a clinic worker’s complaints about sexual harassment by a co-worker because she once slept with him, her federal lawsuit claims.

The man also allegedly made sexually laden anti-Semitic remarks to another employee of the Audobon Clinic, an in-patient facility run by the New York State Psychiatric Institute, a division of Columbia University.

Erica Dratte has worked at the Audobon Clinic as a “Mental Hygiene Therapy Aid” since around 1996, her lawsuit says. In 1997, she “began a romantic relationship” with a co-worker, Kwame El. He got her pregnant and she had an abortion.

Around 1998, Dratte broke off the relationship with El. That is when the years of verbal abuse allegedly started. “Immediately thereafter, Kwame El began to sexually harass Plaintiff.”

He told her, “You have a pretty little pussy” and “Remember that time we were in the bathroom and I had you against the shower.”

Dratte complained to her supervisors in 1999 but they poo-poohed her concerns again and again. Dr. Stephanie Lemelle “simply told plaintiff that she (Plaintiff) had been in a relationship with Kwame El and ‘should know how he is.’”

In 2001, after El exposed his penis to Dratte she complained to a different supervisor, Dr Pelligrino Sarti. El was transferred to another clinic but in 2003 he was transferred back to the Audobon Clinic, where Dratte worked.

After another employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against him in 2005 El was again transferred to a different clinic.

But in 2007, he was back at the Audobon Clinic and unleashing more abuse on Dratte--commenting on her physical appearance and complaining “You should have never have killed my baby.”

The lawsuit claims that El “would also make sexually harassing remarks about other female employees.”

In 2012, he allegedly told another coworker, Laura Panitz that “she needs to be fucked” and “because she is Jewish she wears long skirts to cover up that she is a freak.”

Dratte and Panitz complained to New York State Psychiatric Institute clinical director David Lowenthal but got nowhere, the lawsuit says. Lowenthal did nothing to “remedy the harassment and/or prevent future harassment.”

El made more crude remarks to Dratte. He told her, “All women want me because I am a big black man” and “all white women want a black man.”

Dratte complained to another New York State Psychiatric Institute official, affirmative action office Petrocinia Ibanez-Murillo. She said El should have been “fired a long time ago” but Dratte should just be thankful she “’wasn’t harmed from this situation.’”

Dratte sued the New York State Psychiatric Institute in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York last month for illegal discrimination based on gender.

The lawsuit asks for “compensatory damages for mental, emotional and physical injury, distress pain and suffering and injury to reputation.”

New York State Psychiatric Institute director David Lowenthal did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did New York State Psychiatric Institute director Jeffrey Lieberman

Evan Gahr, a former press critic for the late New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel, has written for almost every major conservative publication. His reporting has been picked up by the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, New York Times and Page Six. He recently broke the story of sexual harassment at the Family Research Council.

 Twitter:@EvanGahr

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Former FishbowlDC editor gets action.


By EVAN GAHR

In the wake of embarrassing publicity the Washington Post moved to settle the race and age discrimination against the paper it initially planned to fight.

And it looks like Washington Post scion Don Graham personally made this call.

Settlement talks between the Post and longtime black ad department employee David DeJesus--who was fired by his white boss, Noelle Wainwright, just days after she shrieked at him out of the blue--are scheduled for November 21 at Washington, DC Federal District Court.

But the case was moving full speed ahead until the initial flurry of stories.

In early September, Mayer Morganroth, the lawyer for DeJesus, said discovery for the lawsuit would start in a few weeks.

Jackie Holmes, the outside Washington Post lawyer, and Morganroth filed a formal discovery schedule for the case with the court on September 11.

(Both lawyers indicated that they might want the judge to seal “proprietary business information” that could be obtained in discovery. That’s right: the Washington Post was prepared to take legal action to keep information from the public!)

On the evening of September 11 this reporter broke the story of the lawsuit in a freelance opinion piece for the Daily Caller.

On September 13, FishbowlDC published its first article about the lawsuit.

FishbowlDC then published a longer piece on September 19 about my efforts to get journalists at the Washington Post and Politico to cover the lawsuit.

Anyway, eight days after the second FishbowlDC story, both sides held a status conference with Washington Federal District Court Judge John Bates.

Cherie Morganroth, another lawyer for DeJesus, spoke first and indicated her willingness to go forward with discovery, saying that prospects for any kind of settlement were poor.

But Washington Post lawyer Jackie Holmes made very clear that her client—it’s hard to conclude that she was referring to anyone else but Donald Graham—was determined to settle

According to the official transcript of the September 27 status conference Holmes told Bates that, “We are very far apart. I have talked at length, though, with my client about this, and my client’s view—and he knows himself and has some familiarity with the plaintiff because the plaintiff has been a longtime employee and is now back as an employee and his view is that there is a chance it could be successful if we did it [settlement negotiations] soon.”

Bates referred the case to Federal Magistrate Judge Alan Kay for mediation. He scheduled talks for 10:00 AM on November 21.

They have 60 days after the meeting to settle case. But Kay is very adept at negotiating deals. So this could be concluded relatively soon—if the Washington Post is prepared to pay out big bucks.
  
Mayer Morganroth, the lawyer for DeJesus, tells dcgadfly.blogspot.com that he wants a six figure settlement from the Washington Post.

David DeJesus was re-instated at the Post earlier this year, as ordered by a Newspaper Guild arbitrator. But Morganroth says DeJesus deserves substantial remuneration for “pain and suffering” and the irreparable to his reputation.

DeJesus is now “tainted all over the industry” as “insubordinate” because of his dismissal and unlikely to find employment anywhere else, Morganroth asserts.
 
Evan Gahr is a former press critic for the late New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel. Former Washington Post and New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove dubbed Gahr "a Washington gadfly" in one of his many items on Gahr's scoops. 

Twitter: @EvanGahr 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Duh for Politico: Dylan Byers' Blog Spells Editor Wrong

Maybe instead of sending out so many "We are wonderful" memos John Harris should hire a proofreader? And instead of re-writing press releases today maybe Politico should have followed up on story that feds seized a Washington journalist's files? Why did they ignore that? Because the Daily Caller broke the story?










Evan Gahr is a former press critic for the late Eric Breindel.  Lloyd Grove dubbed Gahr a "Washington gadfly" in one of his many items on Gahr's reporting.  AEI purged him and the conservative Hudson Institute fired him for denouncing Christian anti-Semitism.

Twitter: @EvanGahr

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Keith Olbermann Tweets Whopper About Washington Gadfly Evan Gahr and Page Six





   
Evan Gahr,
Keith Olbermann replied to your Tweet!
  Evan Gahr









Evan Gahr @EvanGahr



@KeithOlbermann I went to ur apt. in '08 to ask about taxes u owed NYState. Did u ever pay your bill? dcgadfly.blogspot.com 
Keith Olbermann @KeithOlbermann

@EvanGahr The Post actually apologized for your unconscionable behavior.



0



@KeithOlbermann
Richard Johnson told me he didn't apologize u r a bigger liar than ur Stalinist sweetie L. Hellman but not nearly as adept



You were more cowardly than the cowardly lion to run away from me


TAXING TIMES FOR OLBERMANN

Last Updated: 4:07 AM, June 2, 2008
Posted: 4:07 AM, June 2, 2008


PROFESSIONAL angry person Keith Olbermann favors tax-and-spend liberals, but he didn't pay his own taxes. OlbermannWatch.com reports that New York state has issued a tax warrant or judgment against the MSNBC host for $2,269.50 in back taxes owed by his personal corporation, Olbermann Broadcasting Empire Inc. Asked about the delinquency the other night by journalist Evan Gahr, the otherwise loquacious Olbermann uttered nary a word as he scurried into Trump Palace, where he bought condo apartment 40B last year, according to public records. "This was a bookkeeping disagreement between Keith's accountants and the state which was resolved months ago," an MSNBC spokesman told Page Six. Gahr was surprised to see Olbermann on foot. "Is the belt-tightening so severe at NBC that the peacock network can't afford a car to take Olbermann home?" he wondered. "If so, there's a bright side for Olbermann: Nobody can call him a limousine liberal.

Read more: TAXING TIMES FOR OLBERMANN - NYPOST.com http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/item_07Wh5OEoES0xyysf1GkvjK#ixzz2chthliLr



By EVAN GAHR

dcgadfly.blogspot.com

Professional Angryperson Keith Olbermann is, despite some minor faults like misogyny and the inability to hold down a job, a very careful writer.


But on Twitter recently Olbermann made a rather fanciful claim about Page Six, the New York Post and Washington Gadfly Evan Gahr.  


He claimed the Post apologized over a Page Six item that profoundly embarrassed him in 2008.  


There is nothing on Google about an apology. And former Page Six Editor Richard Johnson told this non-blog blog that he certainly did not apologize to Olbermann.


In June 2008, Page Six did an item based largely on this blog's account of Gahr confronting Olbermann outside his Upper East Side apartment building to ask about a New York state tax warrant against his personal company.


Olbermann--who once did an entire segment on how he would vanquish any Bill O'Reilly producer who confronted him--instead ran away from Gahr.


Olbermann later complained on the air that the Post "sent" someone to his house.

I wrote him a letter that began, "Not all paranoids have enemies. Nobody at the Post sent me anywhere. It was all my idea."


True enough. I knew that it would be impossible to get Olbermann on the phone at MSNBC. So I decided to go straight to the source.


Still, the whole incident continues to be unsettling to Olbermann.  Asked on Twitter recently whether he still owed the taxes, Olbermann claimed that the Post had apologized for my "unconscionable behavior."


To use an expression of the late New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel, for whom I was an editorial writer and press critic, Olbermann has a decidedly problematic relationship with the truth. 


If the Post had apologized it would have been all over Google. 


Besides, why would anyone apologize to Olbermann? Journalists routinely confront public figures outside their homes.


Olbermann did not respond to follow-up tweets about his curious claim.


But, hey, maybe he's just real busy getting himself fired from his latest job.


Olbermann actually paid his back taxes about two months after the Page Six item.


But why didn't he just saying that instead of tweeting something demonstrably false about
the New York Post?


Warrant ID# : E-028328640-W001-9
Name of Taxpayer as appears on warrant Address of Taxpayer as appears on warrant
OLBERMANN BROADCASTING EMPIRE, INC. 333 S GRAND AVE STE 1800
LOS ANGELES, CA 90071-1523
Date Warrant docketed by county clerk County where Warrant is docketed Tax Liability amount as appears on Warrant Date notice of tax warrant, amendment, vacation or satisfaction was filed by the Department of Taxation and Finance with the Department of State. Date Warrant satisfaction docketed by county clerk Date Warrant Vacate Notice docketed by county clerk Date Warrant amendment docketed by county clerk Date Warrant expired
August 21, 2007ALBANY$2,269.50August 21, 2007  




Name of Taxpayer as appears on warrant Address of Taxpayer as appears on warrant
OLBERMANN BROADCASTING EMPIRE, INC. 333 S GRAND AVE STE 1800
LOS ANGELES, CA 90071-1523
Date Warrant docketed by county clerk County where Warrant is docketed Tax Liability amount as appears on Warrant Date notice of tax warrant, amendment, vacation or satisfaction was filed by the Department of Taxation and Finance with the Department of State. Date Warrant satisfaction docketed by county clerk Date Warrant Vacate Notice docketed by county clerk Date Warrant amendment docketed by county clerk Date Warrant expired
August 21, 2007ALBANY$2,269.50August 15, 2008  August 14, 2008 






Evan Gahr, a former press critic and editorial writer for the late New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel has written for almost every major conservative publication,  plus the Washington Post, Washington Jewish Week and Philadelphia Inquirer. 



Twitter:@EvanGahr