A former St. Louis County employee has served the county with a lawsuit seeking a trial by jury and $50,000 in compensatory damages, claiming some county officials sexually harassed her and other female workers for years.
Ellen Quinn, who until recently worked as a public information officer for the northeastern Minnesota county, alleges that for nearly a decade, she and other female employees were "routinely subjected to sexist and sexually inappropriate conduct and comments made by various Commissioners, Administrators, Director and elected County officials who worked within the County systems."
Quinn began working for the county in 1994.
In the lawsuit, Quinn claims discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, breach of contract, defamation and infliction of emotional distress.
Quinn's attorney, Minneapolis-based Joni Thome, served the county with the suit earlier this month but has not filed it yet in state district court. She said the county has until June 8 to respond to the allegations.
"From there, we can proceed to litigation or we could proceed to talking about how to resolve it," Thome said.
County Administrator Kevin Gray confirmed the county was served with the lawsuit but would not comment on any of its details.
"These are allegations at this time and we need to let the legal process work," said Gray, adding that the county attorney has requested an extension to respond to the suit.
Among the allegations in the suit, Quinn specifically claims:
- She was sexually harassed by Martin Buscombe, director of the Management Information Services, from 2005 to 2007. According to Quinn, Buscombe told her he was married and "made it very clear that he was only interested in sex";
- In 2007, she filed a sexual harassment complaint against County Commissioner Steve Rauker. The board later voted by a 3-3 tie on the claims, and Rauker did not face disciplinary action;
- Quinn alleges she was forced to sign an agreement in August 2007 indicating she would release her claims against the county and its employees in exchange for her job back;
- In 2008, Quinn took a medical leave and was later diagnosed with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, stress, depression, agoraphobia and anxiety, which she alleges were caused by her situation at work.
Buscombe and Rauker declined to comment on the allegations.