BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A lawsuit filed in the 19th Judicial District Court claims a woman formerly employed in the office of East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court Doug Welborn was allegedly the victim of retaliation after reporting sexual harassment.
The filing, entered Jan. 22, states since 2012, a female employee, Barbara Bracken, was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment by Greg Brown, the deputy chief in Welborn’s office.
Among the allegations noted in the lawsuit are that Brown required Bracken to meet him alone in his office and that he discussed his sexual history, sexual preferences, and sexual relationships.
Welborn and another supervisor in the office were reportedly informed of the harassment in 2013, the lawsuit states. The suit notes Brown’s alleged sexual harassment of Bracken then stopped.
However, according to the lawsuit, retaliation began shortly thereafter.
The situation reportedly escalated in 2018 when Bracken confronted Brown about the alleged retaliation. The lawsuit states Brown responded by saying Bracken was “going to do what [Brown] said he was going to do,” and that “nobody was going to believe” her sexual harassment allegations. Bracken says she was later fired.
Other women formerly employed by the clerk’s office, who are not part of the lawsuit, made claims to WAFB similar to Bracken’s. They claim sexual harassment was pervasive in the office.
Those women say they’re not shocked after seeing the lawsuit. WAFB agreed to conceal their identities for their protection.
“I’m surprised it’s only one person,” said one of the women.
One woman described the alleged things Brown would say to her.
“'I can appreciate that you’re an educated woman. You got these degrees and you know, I can’t stand... I can’t be attracted to a dumb woman and you’re real smart,'” the woman said Brown told her. She went on to say Brown said he “knows what [the woman] had down there must have been awesome. Must have been good because it must drive the guys crazy.”
From there, the woman says the alleged harassment turned physical.
“He ran his hand from the top of my shoulder, down my back, and he grabbed my buttocks,” the woman alleged. “I felt violated. He was someone that I was supposed to be able to trust. He was my boss, but he was also the person who controlled my salary, whether or not I could be fired."
Two months after reporting the incident and Brown’s behavior, the woman was fired, she says.
Another woman says in 2013, a group of women approached Welborn directly to report witnessing Brown’s alleged behavior. The woman claims Welborn responded with an offering.
“Jobs for our friends,” said the woman. “He told us that it’s hard for a man to be faithful, even him in his own life. [He said] it was hard for him to be faithful to his wife.”
The woman says she was disgusted with Welborn’s reaction.
“I looked up to him,” said the woman. “I thought he was great and as soon as he said that, everything changed.”
The third woman says during her 15-year career at the clerk’s office, Welborn himself made a sexual advance on her.
“I overheard him say, ‘Look how fine she is. Doesn’t she have a good body?’ I looked over to see who he was talking to and talking about and he was looking me up and down,” said the woman.
The woman says at a later time, Brown called her into his office and told her that Welborn specifically requested she accompany him on the clerk of court’s convention trip in Florida. She claims she was never invited to a conference prior to Welborn’s alleged comment.
The woman says she later quit because of worsening retaliation.
“I really don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Welborn. “I don’t believe in sexual harassment because I don’t believe there’s a place for it in any work or in any job.”
Welborn granted WAFB an interview related to the lawsuit in which he claimed he had no recollection of complaints made against Brown. When reached by phone Wednesday, Jan. 29, Brown said he had no comment.
The attorney representing the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court’s Office responded to the lawsuit by saying:
"The East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s office has a written policy prohibiting all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The Clerk of Court trains all employees on the policy, encourages employees to report alleged violations of the policy, and conducts investigations into alleged violations of the policy. All of this is for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the law.
Both the Clerk of Court Doug Welborn and Chief Deputy Greg Brown deny they have sexually harassed any employees or retaliated against them.
Specifically addressing the recent lawsuit brought by Barbara Bracken, Ms. Bracken first made her allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation only after her employment with the Clerk of Court’s office ended for other reasons. In keeping with the Clerk of Court’s policy, these allegations were investigated - although Ms. Bracken refused to participate in the investigation. That investigation concluded that Ms. Breacken’s allegations of harassment and retaliation were not substantiated. Ms. Bracken then filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the EEOC investigated and dismissed her charge. Unfortunately, she has now opted to file a lawsuit. The Clerk of Court is prepared to vigorously defend this lawsuit."