Employee Files Retaliation Claim Against AOC Office

Posted September 22, 2010 at 6:30pm

A custodial worker has filed a lawsuit against the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, alleging that her supervisors retaliated against her because she previously filed a sexual harassment claim against the agency.

In the lawsuit filed Aug. 31, Priscilla Rucker alleges that she was suspended without pay, denied leave for an on-the-job injury, subjected to harassing conduct by supervisors, falsely accused of being absent from work without official leave, threatened with firing, falsely accused of doctoring her time sheet and had her work more strictly scrutinized, according to court documents.

She alleges that AOC facilities manager Rick Joyce and other managers “routinely humiliated and harassed” her and “engaged in a persistent pattern of severe or pervasive harassment … which created a hostile and offensive workplace environment.”

Rucker also alleges that she has complained to management to no avail.

She is asking for $275,000, in addition to lost wages and court and attorney fees.

The matter was heard before an AOC mediator but was not resolved, so Rucker took the case to court, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Rucker, who has worked for AOC for 19 years, claims her supervisors are retaliating against her because she filed a separate suit in May 2008 alleging that a co-worker had sexually harassed her.

That case, which as of Sept. 16 was in the settlement stages, centers on alleged sexual harassment against Rucker while she was detailed to direct traffic outside the AOC’s office.

Another employee allegedly approached Rucker making sexual innuendos, such as “I like the way you use your hands,” and saying he “wanted to put oil on her body and massage it all over her,” according to court documents.

Rucker claims that when she reported the incident to Joyce, he said he had spoken with the employee about previous similar incidents and suggested that he needs counseling.

In July 2007, Rucker claims the situation became physical when the employee approached her from behind and “ran his hand up her leg reaching under her skirt,” according to court documents.

Rucker thinks that the AOC is responsible for the man’s actions because the agency refused to acknowledge her claims and admonish him. In that case, she is asking for $450,000 plus lost wages and benefits and attorney and court fees.

Rucker has a litigious history with the AOC. In 1997, she joined 43 other female custodial staffers to file a lawsuit alleging job discrimination based on sex. The case was settled in October 2001 and resulted in promotions, wage increases, increased retirement contributions and counsel of future job vacancies for the women involved, according to court documents.

Rucker sued the AOC again in May 2001 alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act and was awarded $36,000 when the case was settled the next year.

She sued a third time in 2003 for job retaliation based on prior litigation and again in April 2007 for job discrimination based on a disability. The latter case went to court in October 2008 and was ruled in favor of the AOC.

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the agency does not comment on personnel issues.