New details have emerged about the Jefferson Parish hostile work environment lawsuit, where former Emergency Preparedness Director Heather Hilliard claims that she and her colleagues were subjected to workplace bullying by her then-boss, former Deputy Chief Operating Officer Richard Hart.
Hilliard is suing Jefferson Parish, Richard Hart, and JP President John Young. She claims that she complained over 25 times about the hostile work environment to members of Young’s administration.
An investigation into Hilliard’s allegations was launched in December 2011, and a report was submitted to the parish on February 10, 2012. Hilliard’s attorney recently filed a copy of the report with the court.
According to the investigation report, the majority of employees interviewed corroborated Hilliard’s accusations against Hart. Several employees described the work environment as being “very intimidating” because of Hart, who was described as having an “abrasive” communication style.
Several employees said that “Hart’s behavior is out of control and he uses a demeaning and rude tone to subordinates within the organization.” The investigators were told that Hart has screamed at employees, thrown papers at an employee, and made some female employees cry.
A number of employees corroborated Hilliard’s allegations that Hart joked about “Thong Thursday” and made inappropriate hand gestures such as “jerking off” when belittling a situation.
It was confirmed by employees that Hart diminished the authority of female managers and supervisors by directing questions to their male subordinates.
The investigation report concluded that “Hart’s presence is a disruptive factor within Jefferson Parish government. Further, it is believed Richard Hart’s sexist behavior toward female employees may create liability for the Parish.”
Employees claimed that Hart “set the stage for the creation of a hostile work environment” from his first day on the job.
The investigation recommended to fire Hart or to give him the option to resign from his position. Hart resigned two days after the investigation report was submitted to Young.