A woman who worked for U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold filed a federal lawsuit against his congressional office, alleging she experienced gender-based discrimination and that a hostile work environment prompted her termination in July.
Former Communications Director Lauren Greene alleges that Farenthold, the two-term Republican from Corpus Christi, made lewd and inappropriate comments, according to the lawsuit filed Friday, and “regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on ‘red head patrol’ to keep him out of trouble.’”
Greene worked for U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Oklahoma, from September 2009 to January 2013, according to her Linkedin profile, and worked her way up from an intern to deputy press secretary. She took a job with Farenthold’s office two months later.
In January, another staffer told Greene that Farenthold had privately admitted to having sexual fantasies about her, according to the lawsuit, which adds that Farenthold later told Greene that he was estranged from his wife.
“On one occasion, prior to February 2014, during a staff meeting at which plaintiff was in attendance, Farenthold disclosed that a female lobbyist had propositioned him for a ‘threesome,’” according to the lawsuit.
The comments made Greene uncomfortable, according to the lawsuit, and she seldom had one-on-one meetings with Farenthold.
“Farenthold regularly made comments designed to gauge whether plaintiff was interested in a sexual relationship,” according to the lawsuit, and made inappropriate comments about her clothing.
Greene also had problems with Chief of Staff Bob Haueter.
Haueter excluded her from staff meetings and publicly humiliated her when she did attend, according to the lawsuit.
During a June 2010 meeting, Haueter announced he was sending Greene home to change because her shirt was too revealing, according to the lawsuit, but Farenthold and another staffer disagreed.
In the lawsuit, Greene alleged that she was fired less than a month after complaining about the hostile work environment.
Ew. This is only one side of the story, and I’m sure that the defense will have plenty to say about what happened. But still: Ew. More worrisome for Farenthold is that the filing of this lawsuit has spawned other problems for him.
The unseemly nature of the accusations already has operatives on Capitol Hill mulling the immediate consequences of Farenthold’s place on the Republican food chain.
“I don’t know about locally, but it’s going to continue to push him on the outside of leadership and the folks that influence the Republican Conference,” a GOP Capitol Hill staffer said on condition of anonymity because of close ties to leadership.
Two GOP Capitol Hill staffers predicted the matter would probably go before the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics. Just last week, the House Ethics Committee cleared a Florida Democratic lawmaker of sexual harassment allegations. But in the process, the committee warned lawmakers “to scrupulously avoid even the impression of a workplace tainted by sexism.”
As Texas Republican operatives digest the reports, some are already speculating on a potential 2016 primary challenger. One potential rival would be Debra Medina, a former Wharton County Republican Party chair who lost a primary bid for comptroller this year.
Getting a little ahead of ourselves there, but still. The next two years are likely to be a bit tumultuous for Farenthold, poor baby. The Chron covered this here, and Politico, Jezebel, BOR, Trail Blazers, TPM, and Juanita have more.