The former communications director of the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus filed a lawsuit against the caucus on Thursday alleging that she was fired in 2013 after complaining about sexual harassment from some of her male colleagues that targeted female staffers.
The lawsuit by the communications director, Kirsten Anderson of Des Moines, also alleges that state Sen. Joni Ernst (pictured above), now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, and another state senator, Sandra Greiner, were witnesses to some of the inappropriate actions by the male colleagues, including that an unnamed male colleague showed her a picture on his computer of a naked woman. Anderson’s lawsuit says Ernst and Greiner did not do anything while the behavior was going on.
Anderson (pictured, right) was fired less than ten hours after writing a memo to her supervisors where she called attention to the alleged harassment, according to the Des Moines Register, which first reported the lawsuit on Thursday.
“By way of just one example, Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak and Sen. Sandra Greiner of Keota witnessed sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior exhibited by their male colleagues and did not and said nothing while female staffers stood by unable to say anything, Anderson’s lawsuit said.
That is the only mention of Ernst and Greiner.
Ernst released a statement in response to the lawsuit to the Register:
As a mother of three daughters and someone who has been sexually harassed myself, I take sexual harassment allegations very seriously. Sexual harassment should never be tolerated, If I had witnessed any sexual harassment in the state legislature, I certainly would have put a stop to it. If anyone had brought accusations like this to my attention at the time, of course I would have acted immediately. Frankly, I am shocked to learn that I’m even referred to in this suit, and as a former colleague I hope she is not being exploited ahead of the election.
Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, has previously said she had been sexually harassed in the military and backs removing investigations of sexual assault from the military’s chain of command.
Her campaign spokeswoman, Gretchen Hamel, told the Register that the filing of the suit so close to Election Day was no coincidence.
Read the lawsuit, via the Des Moines Register, below:
Ernst is running against Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in the race for U.S. Senate. The TPM Polltracker average finds Ernst with a 3.5 point lead over Braley.
(Photo credit: LinkedIn)