Sex harassment suit filed against La. Democrats

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2009

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A former field organizer for the state Democratic Party has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the party, accusing its former executive director of fondling her and refusing to pay her wages unless she had sex with him.

Kimberly Hulbert of St. Tammany Parish sued the state and national party Tuesday in Baton Rouge, accusing her ex-supervisor, Britton Loftin, of a pattern of sexual advances without her consent ‘‘and over her objection.’’ The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages for emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment.

State party chairman Chris Whittington referred questions to the party’s legal counsel, Randy Piedrahita.

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‘‘We disagree with the allegations, and we’ll try our case in the courts and not in the press,’’ Piedrahita said.

Loftin referred questions to his lawyer, Jill Craft, who said: ‘‘Obviously, Mr. Loftin denies the allegations contained in the lawsuit.’’

The lawsuit says Hulbert resigned from the state party in April, after she asked for unpaid wages and that Loftin responded: ‘‘had she agreed to have sex with him, she wouldn’t be having problems getting paid.’’

Among the other allegations, the lawsuit claims that Loftin groped Hulbert in the office and in a car and sent her sexually suggestive text messages.

Loftin became executive director in April 2008 and left the job in June, when the party issued a statement saying he would pursue other ‘‘career opportunities.’’

Hulbert was hired as a field organizer in June 2008, under a ‘‘dual employment’’ agreement with the state party and the Democratic National Committee, with Loftin as her direct supervisor, according to the suit. Her employment with the DNC ended after the presidential election but she continued working for the state party, the Democratic State Central Committee and a subsidiary group, the state party’s Mayoral Campaign Committee, the suit said.

The DNC is also a defendant in the lawsuit but had no comment, a spokeswoman said.

No court date has been set. The suit was filed in state district court in Baton Rouge before Judge Todd Hernandez.

The suit is the second filed by Hulbert this month against the state party. The other, also filed in Baton Rouge, accuses the party of failing to pay Hulbert’s wages for several months early this year. That suit has a preliminary court hearing set for Aug. 6, before state District Judge Kay Bates.