Lawsuits filed in sexual harassment cases; Claims of wages unpaid also alleged

10/01/2013 05:02 PM

A trio of legislative staff members filed lawsuits Tuesday in Franklin Circuit Court against the state and lawmakers alleging a hostile workplace, retribution and violations of federal wage laws.

Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner were the first two staffers in the Democratic leadership offices to bring forward allegations that former Rep. John Arnold made inappropriate comments to them and touched them. They filed a lawsuit against Arnold, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the Legislative Research Commission, and the commonwealth.

The documents again spell out allegations of sexual harassment by Arnold, a Democrat from Union County who resigned last month. The lawsuit also alleges that the women who are classified with the LRC as “hourly part-time permanent” leadership staff were told to only report 37.5 hours of time worked per week no matter the actual hours worked.

Plaintiffs’ job responsibilities required Plaintiffs to work additional hours for the benefit of the Commonwealth and/or Stumbo and/or the LRC, however, Plaintiffs were not compensated for the hours they worked, including the hours they worked over forty (40) hours.”

Cooper and Costner are seeking damages in the case equal to unpaid wages and overtime. Click the link to download the complaint from Cooper and Costner:
Draft Complaint 9 30 13 Yolanda and Cassandra.doc

House Speaker Greg Stumbo was mum on the lawsuits filed in a statement sent out Tuesday afternoon.

“It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation,” Stumbo said.

Another LRC employee, Nicole Cusic, also is suing and claimed she was improperly transferred against her will after confronting Democratic Rep. Will Coursey, a Marshall County Democrat, about inappropriate comments Cusic said he made to an intern and another LRC staff member.

Cusic, who is represented by the same attorney as Costner and Cooper, filed the lawsuit against the Legislative Research Commission, former LRC Director Bobby Sherman, and Coursey. Pure Politics first reported
the allegations and coming lawsuit last week. Click the link to download a draft copy of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Cusic:
Cusic Complaint.doc

Coursey has denied any wrong doing and his attorney has threatened to file a counter suit. A statement from attorney Mark Edwards Tuesday called the suit “baseless and without merit.”

“The complaint mentions vague accusations and anonymous witnesses. Nobody with whom I have spoken ever heard the plaintiff complain about my client until these allegations were made public last week. I am aware of no one else who shared the suite with Representative Coursey who heard any inappropriate comments or witnessed any inappropriate behavior from Representative Coursey,” Edwards said in the statement.

Edwards said he has information that says that Cusic made the allegations after she had been in the GOP Senate office for a year and only after consulting with Republican officials.

“If Ms. Cusic was shunned or if she felt any embarrassment or humiliation, as she alleges in her complaint, it had nothing to do with my client,” Edwards said. “I look forward to deposing the plaintiff, her anonymous witnesses and the Republican officials with whom she met at the earliest opportunity. While I have great confidence in the press, I look forward to defending these baseless allegations in court.”


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