Louisiana taxpayers have paid $3.9 million since 2004 to settle sexual harassment and gender-based claims going back to the 1990s, according to records released late Thursday by the state Division of Administration.
The records show 66 claims for sexual or gender discrimination, and retaliation, but mostly for sexual harassment. They were filed by state employees against other state workers, usually supervisors. Settlement payments ranged from $2,500 to $365,159.37.
Not included are claims filed by others against state employees, said Jacques Berry, a spokesman for the Division of Administration.
The state “expressly denied” the allegations but paid the claims to end the possibility of protracted litigation, Berry said.
The Advocate requested the records shortly after numerous disclosures last year that politicians, news media figures and entertainers had sexually harassed co-workers and employees.
Nine allegations in Louisiana state government were against the Department of Corrections, with $987,756 paid in settlements. Five complaints were against guards and supervisors at the Office of Juvenile Justice, which handles youth who have been accused of crimes. Those cases were settled for $328,000. Eight claims were against LSU faculty, administrators and other employees, for which the state paid $232,500 to settle.
The largest settlement paid was in 2004 and ended litigation against then Southern University Athletic Director Earl Hill, who was accused of sexually harassing Southern University New Orleans basketball coach Jean Brooks in the early to mid-1990s.
Court testimony stated that Hill made comments about Brooks' appearance, suggested she wear shorter dresses and asked if she wore a bra. Brooks filed two complaints, which were withdrawn after SUNO officials tried to fix the problem and when that didn’t work to her satisfaction, Brooks filed a third that a university grievance committee found was without merit. She then went to court.
The jury awarded Brooks $483,000. Brooks won SUNO’s appeal.
The state settled the case 12 years after the initial complaint for $365,159.37.
One of Gov. John Bel Edwards' top aides, deputy chief of staff Johnny Anderson, resigned in November amid an investigation into allegations made by a woman who also worked in the governor's office at the time. The woman has not spoken publicly about her claims, but the state has hired an outside attorney in anticipation of a lawsuit.
The Division of Administration made a partial release of requested records on Jan. 5. This new release of settlements includes claims that were older and not as easily retrievable.