Harassment Suit Against Senate Officer Dismissed

Posted August 29, 2003 at 3:35pm

Ruling that a former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms employee attempted to bribe and tamper with witnesses, a federal judge tossed out her $1.3 million lawsuit alleging that she was sexually harassed by a supervisor.

Renee Young worked for 18 years as a bindery specialist in the service branch of the Sergeant-at-Arms office until her firing in December 1997. In her lawsuit, Young charged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment that led to a nervous breakdown and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Specifically, Young alleged that starting in 1989 and continuing through 1996, two of her supervisors subjected her to numerous unsolicited and unwelcome sexual actions. She also alleged that other employees spread rumors about her and charged that management did not take her complaints seriously and retaliated against her.

But in the course of the lawsuit, Senate lawyers presented evidence showing that Young engaged in two instances of witness tampering and that she refused to turn over medical records during the discovery stage of the litigation.

According to court records, in August 1999 Young and her brother telephoned another Sergeant-at-Arms co-worker. During this three-way call, Young’s brother offered the co-worker $50,000 if he would falsely implicate other employees and support Young’s claim.

The co-worker did not provide the testimony requested and eventually he, Young and Young’s brother all acknowledged the scheme. Based on those statements, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman concluded “that plaintiff was a full participant in an illegal attempt to bribe a witness in this case in exchange for false testimony.”

The judge also determined that Young asked another co-worker to accuse a supervisor of improper sexual contact even though the co-worker had no personal knowledge of such incidents. According to court testimony, Young coached the co-worker to graphically describe sexual advances by a supervisor to corroborate her story.

“This attempt to influence a witness to fabricate testimony, coupled with Ms. Young’s complicity in the attempted bribe of another witness, warrants the most serious sanction of dismissal,” Friedman wrote.

Young began representing herself after her attorneys withdrew from the case in October 1999. She could not be reached for comment.

Judges rarely punish misconduct violations with outright dismissals, instead opting for other sanctions such as fines or contempt citations. But Friedman said those sanctions would be ineffective given Young’s lack of monetary resources.

“She therefore is subject to the ultimate sanction, dismissal, pursuant to the Court’s inherent power. Because defendant has been so prejudiced by plaintiff’s misconduct that it would be unfair to require defendant to proceed further, and because plaintiff’s misconduct has so jeopardized the integrity of the judicial process itself, any sanction short of dismissal would be inadequate to deal with plaintiff’s misconduct,” Friedman wrote.