City Attorneys: Sexual Harassment Suit Has No Standing
City attorneys press judge to dismiss lawsuit filed against Hyattsville police department.
Lawyers for the city of Hyattsville have reiterated calls to dismiss a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the city police department by one of its former officers.
In court documents filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, city attorneys pushed their argument that the former police officer, Marsha Lessard, waited too long to file her complaint.
The filing by city attorneys comes after Lessard's attorneys asked the court to reject an earlier motion by the city to dismiss her lawsuit.
Lessard's lawsuit, filed in late June, alleged that she was subject to sexual harassment during her time on the city police force between 2005 and 2009 when she was fired. Lessard also alleges that she was retaliated against when she complained to her superiors and filed a complaint with county and federal human rights regulatory agencies over her treatment on the force.
In July, city attorneys asked the court to dismiss Lessard's on the grounds that she had waited too long to file her complaint. The city argued that, by law, the court could not consider any complaints which occurred more than 300 days before she filed her lawsuit. They also argued that Lessard failed to connect her allegations of retaliation to her pursuit of an initial sexual harassment complaint back in June of 2009.
But Lessard's attorneys argued that her allegations were part of a "continuing violation" of her rights to equal employment opportunities. In sexual harassment cases where a continuing violation situation is upheld by the court, defendants may not be protected by the 300 day limit.
But in their filing last week, city attorneys said that Lessard did not invoke any of the proper arguments to avoid the time limit.
"None are available to her" reads the memo filed by city attorneys, who noted that Lessard had lawyers guiding her through the initial stages of her sexual harassment complaint. Those lawyers, argued city attorneys, should have been aware of the 300 day filing limit.
"Someone who retains legal counsel to assist and guide her before, during and after the administrative process, cannot later be heard to say the equities excusing untimeliness are in her favor," reads the memo from city attorneys. "They are not."
But, with Lessard's attorneys arguing a continuing violation, city attorneys said last week that she failed to allege any acts in her original 2009 administrative complaint which contributed to a hostile work environment within the 300 day limit.
Lessard's lawsuit, filed after her case went through administrative review by the county, does contain allegations which fell within the 300 day limit. Her lawyers have accused the city of ignoring those complaints in their motion to dismiss.
Now, the case heads back to U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz for him to decide on the city's motion to dismiss. A ruling is expected within the next month.