A former city clerk’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Front Royal continues to go to federal court.
Jennifer Berry alleges in her lawsuit that a former city councilor sexually harassed her and, when she reported the complaint, city officials fought back and then fired her. Harrisonburg attorney Timothy Cupp filed the civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on Jan. 4 on behalf of Berry.
Fairfax attorney Heather K. Bardot represents Front Royal, which has denied Berry’s allegations.
Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe held a hearing Friday on evidentiary issues in the case. Hoppe has set Dec. 1 as the deadline for the plaintiff to file evidence of discovery, Cupp said by telephone on Tuesday. The court also set Dec. 10 as the date for the parties to file summary judgment motions, Cupp said. District Judge Thomas T. Cullen would hear the summary judgment motions.
Cupp filed a motion in court on Friday asking the judge to allow the complainant to file certain evidence under seal, in particular an unredacted version of Berry’s response brief in support of her motion to compel witnesses to testify, as well as parts of the transcript of the depositions. by Julie Bush, director of human resources at the time of the alleged incidents.
The lawsuit says Berry suffered from emotional distress, anxiety, stress, embarrassment, humiliation, pain, suffering, damage to his reputation and loss of enjoyment of life. Berry also suffered a loss of employment, wages and benefits, the lawsuit says.
Berry is asking for back pay, a placement in a position she would occupy if the city had not retaliated, if available or, if not, a first salary, according to the lawsuit. Berry is also seeking compensatory damages and other relief. Berry has requested a jury trial.
The lawsuit alleges that former city councilor William “Bill” Sealock sexually harassed Berry by rubbing her shoulders and arms, preventing her from getting up when she tried to get up from her chair and commenting on her legs and her dress while making an hourglass figure with her hands. and pointing to the clerk when she entered the room.
The lawsuit also states that Sealock pushed Berry when she knelt in front of a refrigerator, exerting physical dominance over her. Berry also claims in the lawsuit that Sealock also asked him what the going rate was for a sexual act.
Sealock’s actions began shortly after he took office as a member of the Front Royal city council in early January and continued into 2019, according to the lawsuit.
Berry made it clear to Sealock that his actions were unwelcome and crossed the line, according to the lawsuit.
The complainant goes on to say that then city councilor and now mayor Christopher W. Holloway told her on August 15, 2019 that she was being considered for a position that would require her to manage more public information functions. and social media, described as a promotion with a raise. At that point, Berry spoke to Holloway about Sealock’s alleged behavior, according to the lawsuit. Berry claims in the lawsuit that the next day, August 16, 2019, Holloway told her during a walk behind town hall that if she didn’t withdraw her claims against Sealock, she could lose her job.
Berry reported his complaints about Sealock’s alleged actions the same day to Bush, according to the lawsuit. The manager told Berry she would have a response within two weeks of an investigation, according to the lawsuit. Berry says she did not receive a response until a month later and, at that point, the incomplete report dismissed her complaints.
The human resources department report says former acting mayor and interim city manager Matthew Tederick witnessed and played down the push in front of the refrigerator, although he was not hired at the time of the hiring. ‘incident, according to the lawsuit. To deflect Holloway’s comments about her, Tederick told Berry that Holloway was stressed about an upcoming vote and nervous about meeting her, the lawsuit also says.
The city then removed Berry’s seat at a table used in council meetings. Berry was told to sit behind Sealock, a decision the lawsuit claims to be an attempt to ostracize him. Berry was no longer allowed to attend closed meetings, as were other male employees, according to the lawsuit. The city also changed Berry’s schedules without notice. Berry left work on Dec.10, 2019, under the Family Medical Leave Act until Jan.7, 2020, for planned surgery, according to the lawsuit. City officials questioned Berry’s use of the leave and, upon her return, were isolated and avoided.
Berry was informed on January 30, 2020 that her job would be reduced to part-time as part of a “good size.” The city then ended Berry on February 4, 2020, according to the lawsuit. The pay rise Berry expected to receive went to a male employee, the lawsuit notes.
Berry worked for the city as an administrative assistant at the Department of Public Works from 1998 to 2003, when she left to give birth, the lawsuit says. The city hired Berry as the council’s clerk around 2005 and she received favorable reviews, according to the lawsuit.