Congressional Black Caucus member Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) is under fire after one of his former employees accused him of sexual harassment.
Winsome Packer, a former staff member of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation filed suit in federal court on March 9 against Hastings, the commission and its director, Fred Turner, according to the Court News Service. Packer in her suit alleged discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment.
“Mr. Hastings intention was crystal clear: he was sexually attracted to Ms. Packer, wanted a sexual relationship with her, and would help progress her career if she acquiesced to his sexual advances,” the complaint read, according to Court News.
Packer, a Republican, said she lost her job with the House Committee on Homeland Security in 2006 after Democrats took control of Congress.
After she accepted a position at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe from Hastings, Packer alleged that he offered her a more prestigious position after a few months. She claims that he would often tell her that he wanted to stay with her in her apartment. Hastings was co-chairman of the commission in the 111th Congress.
Packer also alleged in her complaint that Hastings’ behavior continued while she was stationed in Austria, claiming he would often buy her gifts, hug her inappropriately and ask her vulgar questions like what kind of underwear she wore. Hastings also told her that her career would advance if she yielded to his approaches, she said.
She sought advice from Turner about how to handle the situation but she claims that he only offered her suggestions on how to thwart the behavior, rather than providing effective help.
According to the Associated Press, Hastings released a statement at the onset of the suit, denying the allegations.
“I have never sexually harassed anyone,” the statement read, according to the AP. “In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me…I will win this lawsuit.”
Though Packer filed a formal complaint alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by Turner, she said it backfired when Turner’s retaliatory actions against her increased. He excluded her from the commission’s flow of work and rejected her travel requests. She claims that the experience took a toll on her health.
“As a direct and proximate result of the unlawful sexual harassment, Ms. Packer experienced insomnia, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and developed symptoms of coronary artery disease. Ms. Packer has been prescribed medication and is under the care of a physician because of the severity of her heart problems,” the complaint read, according to Court News.
She is seeking punitive damages for retaliation, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
This is not the first time Hastings, 79, has been involved in allegations of scandal.
According to his Web site, he was appointed to the U.S. District Court by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, becoming the first African-American federal judge in the state of Florida. But Court News said that he was impeached by the House for bribery and perjury in 1988 and convicted by the U.S. Senate the following year. Although the Senate could have banned him from seeking federal office again, it did not. He was elected to the House in 1992.