City of Philadelphia and co-defendants fail in attempt to have sexual harassment lawsuit dismissed

By Asia Mayfield | Sep 4, 2018

PHILADELPHIA — The city of Philadelphia’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by government employee Vanessa Bines was unsuccessful. 

Co-defendants Sheriff Jewell Williams and Staff Inspector Sheriff Paris Washington are accused of violating Bines’ constitutional and statutory rights by subjecting her to sexual harassment, according to court documents.  

Williams and Washington both filed a motion to dismiss. The city supported their efforts. On Aug. 24, Judge Jan E. Dubois of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania delivered a ruling.  

The motions are granted in part by the court but denied in other respects.  

Bines began working for the city Sheriff's Department as an administrative assistant in 2012. Two years later, Washington began making inappropriate comments to her work, according to court documents. 

Judge Dubois writes that “Washington told plaintiff he ‘want[ed] to know what [she] had between [her] legs’ and once answered plaintiff’s cellphone (which she had lost) by stating that plaintiff was with him on her knees.’”  

Plaintiff complained about Washington’s conduct to Williams. Instead of aiding her, plaintiff contends that Washington subjected her to sexual harassment as well. The alleged harassment grew worse after plaintiff’s romantic relationship with a deputy sheriff became public.  

In 2017, Bines filed employment discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The court notes that: “Sometime that spring, plaintiff also reported Washington to the Board of Ethics and the City Controller for collecting separate payments for providing notary services even though it was included in his job duties.”  

In February 2017, a friend of Washington, a Philadelphia police captain, “contacted Plaintiff’s landlord in an attempt to have her evicted from her home and terminated from the Sheriff’s Department,” according to court documents.

In June 2017, plaintiff applied for an administrator role with the city. She was told that she wasn’t qualified although she had more than five years of experience, according to court documents. 

She filed her first complaint against Williams, Washington, and the city on Oct. 6, 2017. An amended complaint was filed on April 8, 2018.  

Dubois granted Washington’s motion in regards to plaintiff’s retaliation claim. 

Washington successfully convinced the court that “plaintiff has failed to plead any facts that ‘casually connects’ her denial of a permanent position to retaliation by Washington.”  

Both motions are granted with respect to Bines’ request for punitive damages. They are both denied on all other counts.  


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