A former deputy clerk for the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office has filed suit against her former employer, alleging she was sexually harassed by the number two person in that agency, leading to retaliation and eventually her termination.
Barbara Bracken is seeking unspecified financial damages, pointing to lost wages and benefits as well as emotional distress and psychological damage. She is being represented by Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft.
Bracken, in her suit, accuses Chief Deputy Greg Brown of having made repeated sexual advances towards her while he was her supervisor, starting soon after she was hired in November 2012. Bracken's lawsuit alleges Brown would direct her to come to his office, where he propositioned her, commented on her body and discussed “his sexual history, sexual preferences and sexual relationships.”
Renee Culotta, a New Orleans attorney representing the Clerk’s Office, said Brown denies sexually harassing or retaliating against any employees.
Bracken alleges that sometime in 2013 she told Brown to stop and also reported his behavior to another supervisor.
“Internal investigation did not substantiate that claim,” Culotta countered.
In the suit, Bracken claims that after she rebuffed his advances, Brown retaliated against her repeatedly. She alleges she received unfair reprimands, was removed from job duties, falsely accused of poor performance, transferred out of the downtown Baton Rouge office, suspended and finally terminated in November 2018, all of which resulted from the sexual harassment by Brown.
Culotta said Bracken was suspended and later terminated after several violations of agency policy. The attorney said Bracken didn’t accuse Brown of sexual harassment until after she was fired.
Bracken last March filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination based on sex and race, as well as retaliation. In November 2019, the federal agency notified Bracken it was closing her file, saying it was unable to conclude there was a violation of federal civil rights law, but alternately said the move does not “certify” that the Clerk’s Office is “in compliance with the statutes.”
Culotta characterized that as the EEOC “dismissing” Bracken’s case, noting that the notification letter is entitled “Dismissal and Notice of Rights.”
Craft said it’s wrong to describe the EEOC’s action as a dismissal, noting the agency decision simply allowed Bracken the ability to file her own suit as long as she acted within 90 days, which she did on Jan. 22.
“We requested the right to sue,” Craft said.
Brown was hired by the Clerk’s Office in January 2003 and was promoted to chief deputy in October 2009. Culotta said the Clerk’s Office has no records on any previous sexual harassment suit accusing Brown during his 17 years with the agency. Moreover, she said, there are no sexual harassment suits filed against the agency during the 28 years that Doug Welborn has served as Clerk of Court.
Bracken's lawsuit, filed in state 19th Judicial District Court, has been assigned to Judge Don Johnson.