A Congresswoman’s Ex-Staffer Claims She Was Fired For Wanting To Sue Over An Alleged Rape

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, one of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's former staffers alleged she was wrongfully fired over a rape claim, BuzzFeed News reported. The ex-employee, identified as "Jane Doe" in court documents, sued both the Texas Democrat's office and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). Doe claims Jackson Lee's office fired her after she said she planned to press charges against a CBCF employee for an alleged rape. Bustle has reached out to Jackson Lee's office and the CBCF for comment.

Court documents claim Jackson Lee's office and CBCF "unlawfully retaliated against Ms. Doe" after she told the office that she planned to take legal action against the CBCF, alleging that her supervisor at the foundation raped her in the fall of 2015. She was a 19-year-old intern at the time; he was 30 and the intern coordinator.

Jackson Lee's chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, told BuzzFeed News their office "had nothing to do with any of the actions that have been cited and the person was not wrongfully terminated." According to the lawsuit, Doe was told that her termination was due to budget issues.

Jackson Lee is the chair of CBCF's board of directors and has been in Congress for over two decades. Last year, she sponsored a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and pushed back against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court after he was accused of sexual assault (which he repeatedly denied).

Doe's lawsuit alleged that her former CBCF intern supervisor isolated her from the other interns one night, took her home with him, and sexually assaulted her. Doe says she contacted him the next day to ask what happened, but he said the assault didn't happen. Despite his denial, she recalled the CBCF placing the man on leave, according to the lawsuit. Bustle has reached out to the man Doe has accused of assaulting her for comment.

Two years later, Doe said she had just begun working for Jackson Lee when she learned that the representative's office was considering hiring her alleged rapist. Rushing reportedly agreed not to employ him after Doe told the chief of staff that the two of them had a "prior situation," according to the lawsuit.

However, later in her employment with Jackson Lee's office, Doe said she told Rushing she had learned new information regarding her case against CBCF and the man who had allegedly assaulted her and that she planned to move forward with legal action. Doe's lawsuit claims she was fired weeks after that.

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The suit requests $75,000 in damages for what it calls "Jackson Lee's unlawful termination of Ms. Doe's employment and CBCF's unlawful retaliation against Ms. Doe, its intentional interference with Ms. Doe's employment, and for intentionally inflicting emotional distress of Ms. Doe."

According to Doe, she experienced pain in her pelvic area after the alleged assault and has suffered from PTSD, depression, and severe anxiety since then. "She does not like being alone, and particularly refuses to be alone with men," the lawsuit states. "She no longer dates, and avoids going out at night."