Lauren Greene, who worked for Rep. Blake Farenthold as New Media Director and then Communications Director from February 2013 until she was fired in July 2014, filed a hostile work environment, sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against Farenthold on December 12, 2014.
Greene made the following allegations in her lawsuit complaint against Rep. Farenthold:
On or about February 11, 2014, Farenthold told Plaintiff that he was estranged from his wife and that he had not had sex with her in years.
Farenthold regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on “red head patrol” to keep him out of trouble.
On one occasion, prior to February 2014, during a staff meeting at which Greene was in attendance, Farenthold disclosed that a female lobbyist had propositioned him for a “threesome.”
Greene was concerned because, despite her outreach efforts prior to that time, Farenthold was awkward toward her at work and regularly seemed to try to avoid interacting with her, which made her work as the New Media Director, difficult.
On the night of January 7, 2014, because she was concerned about her ability to perform her job, Greene confided in Emily Wilkes (who was Congressman Farenthold’s Executive Assistant), that Farenthold was awkward toward Greene and ignored her.
In response, Wilkes informed Greene that Farenthold had admitted to being attracted to Greene and to having “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about Greene.
Farenthold knew that Wilkes and Greene were friends and confidantes and that Wilkes would likely convey his comments to Greene, which is exactly what happened on this and other occasions.
The disclosure about Farenthold’s sexual fantasies made Greene even more uncomfortable in the workplace; and approximately the same week, Greene asked Wilkes if anyone else in the office knew about Farenthold’s infatuation with her. Wilkes told Greene that the District Director, Bob Haueter (who was subsequently promoted to Chief of Staff), was the only other person who knew about the Congressman’s attraction to, and fantasies about, Greene.
Greene claims that she was offered a promotion to Communications Director on January 2014. After she became Communications Director, Farenthold continued to act awkwardly toward Greene, such that he rarely met with her in private, one-on-one settings. This was a stark contrast to his behavior with the former communications director, with whom he had one-on-one meeting on nearly a daily basis.
Greene was also uncomfortable around Farenthold, and she was particularly anxious to avoid private meetings, because she knew about his fantasies about her.
Farenthold regularly made comments designed to gauge whether Greene was interested in a sexual relationship. For example, in addition to the comments specifically mentioned, above, Farenthold would compliment Greene’s appearance, or comment on her wardrobe, and then joke that he hoped his compliments did not constitute sexual harassment. On one specific occasion, Farenthold told Greene that she had something on her skirt and that he hoped his comment wouldn’t be taken for sexual harassment. A reasonable person would infer that Farenthold was joking that she had semen on her skirt.
On another occasion, Farenthold told Greene that her skirt was partially unzipped at the top. Greene went to the bathroom to zip her skirt, and she realized that the opening was so small that Farenthold would have had to be staring at her closely to notice.
In a June 10, 2014 meeting with Farenthold and Wilkes, Haueter proclaimed that he was going to send Greene home to change clothes because Haueter claimed he could see Greene’s nipples through her shirt. Wilkes then had to insist that she would convey Haueter’s concerns to Greene. Neither Wilkes nor Farenthold considered Greene’s shirt to be inappropriate or revealing, and Farenthold told Wilkes that Greene could show her nipples whenever she wanted to. Wilkes informed Greene of the comment.
Greene complained about the hostile conduct that she encountered to Ms. Wilkes, in the hopes that Ms. Wilkes – who had close professional relationship with Farenthold and who, as a result, had significant authority among the staff – could put an end to the hostile conduct.
Despite Greene’s complaints, the discriminatory conduct toward her continued. In addition to Haueter’s conduct relating to Greene’s promotion, Haueter made Greene’s professional life unbearable. Among other things Haueter excluded Greene from the regular Senior Staff meetings that were held each week that Farenthold was in Washington, D.C. The previous Communications Director was invited to all of these meetings. Haueter regularly publicly humiliated Greene in staff meetings, blaming her for errors and failings committed by others.
On June 12, 2014, Greene had a breakfast meeting with Farenthold to discuss Haueter’s hostile treatment of her. During that meeting, Greene complained to Farenthold that Haueter was bullying her and treating her in a very hostile fashion. Farenthold replied that Haueter was known to be condescending toward women on the staff, and then paid empty, lip service encouragement for Greene to stand up for herself. Farenthold failed to take any action regarding Haueter’s conduct toward Greene.
Following her meeting with Farenthold on June 12, 2014 both Farenthold and Haueter marginalized and undermined Greene by, among other things: curtailing their interactions with her, having Haueter usurp her Communications Director duties, and ignoring communications from Greene.
Greene was fired less than one month after she complained about the hostile work environment to Congressman Farenthold. At no time prior to her termination did anyone, including Farenthold or Haueter, inform Greene that her job was in jeopardy.
This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.