A former aide has filed a lawsuit against Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, claiming that she was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, then illegally fired for complaining about her treatment.
Lauren Greene says in her suit, first reported by the National Law Journal, that she started working for Farenthold in February 2013, first as his new media director and then his communications director. In her complaint, she alleges that Farenthold "regularly drank to excess" and "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." In February of this year, she says, the congressman decided to tell Greene that he was estranged from his wife and hadn't had sex with her in years.
Greene alleges that Farenthold vacillated between not speaking to her at all and, well, sharing tidbits like the length of time he had gone without spousal intercourse. She says that in January she tried talking to Farenthold's executive assistant about why the congressman was so "awkward" with her, seemingly going out of his way to avoid her a lot of the time; she alleges that the woman told her Farenthold had "sexual fantasies" and "wet dreams" about her, and that's why he acted so weird. (A congressman's office: just like middle school. Allegedly.)
Greene says Farenthold continued to act oddly towards her after she was appointed communications director, making, she alleges, "comments designed to gauge" whether she was interested in a sexual relationship, including tell her she had something on her skirt and then joking he hoped she wouldn't construe that as sexual harassment.
"A reasonable person would infer that Farenthold was joking that she had semen on her skirt," her attorneys write in the complaint. "On another occasion, Farenthold told Plaintiff that herskirt was partially unzipped at the top. Plaintiff went to the bathroom to zip her skirt,and she realized that the opening was so small that Farenthold would have had to be staring at her closely to notice."
At the same time, Greene says, Farenthold's district director Bob Haueter — soon to become his chief of staff — made it clear he didn't much care for her. Through a third party, Greene heard about a conversation between Farenthold and Haueter where Haueter complained that Greene's shirt was too sheer and showed her nipples. Farenthold allegedly responded, "She can show her nipples whenever she wants."
Greene says Haueter made her working life "unbearable," shutting her out of meetings, bullying her, and humiliating her in front of other staff members. She alleges she set up a meeting with Farenthold in June to discuss the hostile behavior and didn't get anywhere: "Farenthold replied that Haueter was known to be condescending toward women on the staff, and then paid empty, lip service encouragement for Plaintiff to stand up for herself."
Greene was fired less than a month later. In her suit, she's alleging gender discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation, and asking for back pay, front pay and other damages. In a statement to the National Law Journal, a spokesperson for Farenthold said, in part, "As is the case with any pending legal situation, the Congressman cannot comment on the specifics of the complaint, however, it goes without saying that both the Congressman and the members of his staff who are included in this complaint have a very different view of the allegations than Ms. Greene." We bet.
This is, as you might recall, the second odd story we've shared about Farenthold in recent weeks; on Friday, BuzzFeed noticed that the website Blow-me.org was registered in the congressman's name. A spokesperson for Farenthold later confirmed to Roll Call that he did indeed own the site, saying he'd purchased it in 1999 but had never used it. Okay. That's one weird thing to cross off the list, anyway.
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