Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Woman filed, then dropped, lawsuit against Conyers for harassment in 2017

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Washington (CNN)Another former staffer alleged that Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers sexually harassed her, according to court documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in March 2017 and obtained by CNN.

The lawsuit, which the woman later dropped after an unsuccessful attempt to seal it, was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

The woman said she has known Conyers since 2006, but alleges the incidents occurred in 2015 and 2016.

CNN is not naming the woman, and she has not responded to multiple requests for comment. There was no lawyer listed for the woman in the suit.

Asked whether Conyers denied the claims in the 2017 suit, a spokesperson for Conyers said: "The former staffer voluntarily decided to drop the case."

The revelation of an additional accuser comes the same day the House Ethics Committee announced it would investigate Conyers after reports that he settled a separate wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after allegedly sexually harassing a staffer.

In that instance, Conyers did not dispute the existence of settlement or payments, but "expressly and vehemently" denied any wrongdoing.

According to the court documents obtained by CNN, Conyers' former staffer complained of "sexual harassment and a hostile work environment perpetrated against her" by Conyers' office. Her allegations include, according to the suit, Conyers "repeatedly coming to her desk, rubbing on her shoulders, kissing her forehead, making inappropriate comments, covering and attempting to hold her hand."

The woman said she made repeated complaints about the advances to Conyers' chief of staff, who subsequently directed her to make a list.

"These advances occurred every occasion defendant Conyers was in the Washington, DC, offices and were so numerous and occurred so frequently that the plaintiff was unable to maintain this list due (to) the extreme amount of time it would require to adequately chronicle these advances and behaviors and manage her workload," the suit states.

She also says she made efforts to stop the harassment, including in March 2016 asking a male congressional staffer who she says she previously dated to "be her 'fake boyfriend' and to make regular stops by the office" hoping to dissuade the lawmaker.

The woman alleges that Conyers' harassment grew worse and that she "attempted to minimize interaction with him" because she feared that he would make comments and sexual advances towards her.

In April 2016, the woman went to the Office of Compliance to obtain counseling. Several days later, she says, Conyers repeatedly made inappropriate comments toward her, attempted to hold her hand and asked her to come home with him when they shared a car ride to a White House event.

In the court documents, she said Conyers' behavior caused her "severe anxiety and chest pains" and that after consulting with a physician, she made the decision to take medical leave. However, when Conyers' chief of staff, Raymond Plowden, also listed as a defendant, required medical documentation to justify her sick leave, she refused citing an "atmosphere of mistrust."

The office then terminated her position, according to the court documents.

The woman had been seeking $34,500 in lost wages, $5,500 in lost benefits, $15,000 for mental anguish and emotional distress and $50,000 in punitive damages, because she alleged that "defendant Conyers is a habitual, repeated offender."

The new allegations against Conyers, the longest-serving active member of the House of Representatives, come as there has been a torrent of attention on sexual harassment and misconduct on Capitol Hill, by both members and staffers.

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