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County wants sex device, porn lawsuit tossed

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Motion to be heard Tuesday in Circuit Court

By Ben Carlson

Calling at least one of her claims “absurd,” the Anderson County Fiscal Court has asked a judge to dismiss a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former county employee.
Lea Beasmore, who filed the lawsuit after she was fired last March, claims she was sexually harassed numerous times, shown pornographic videos and received a sex device commonly known as a vibrator from a co-worker.
Called a motion for summary judgment, a hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, in front of Circuit Judge Charles Hickman in the Anderson County Courthouse.
If Hickman rules in the fiscal court’s favor, Beasmore’s lawsuit would effectively be tossed out.
The fiscal court rejects each of three claims Beasmore makes, including that the county provided a “hostile” work environment; has employer liability; and a Whistleblower Act claim because she was fired for pointing out deficiencies in work done by others.
In their answer to the motion, Beasmore and her attorney strongly disagree.

Sexual harassment
“This court should grant summary judgment in [the fiscal court’s] favor with regard to [Beasmore’s] sexual harassment claims as the record is completely void of evidence that any of the alleged objectionable conduct interfered with [Beasmore’s] work performance,” the fiscal court’s attorney writes in their request for judgment.
“It is simply not enough that conduct complained of is objectively and subjectively offensive.”
The attorneys also point out that, until she was fired, a diary Beasmore claims she kept did not include any of the incidences she considered sexually harassing.
“[Beasmore’s] failure to document any of these events prior to her termination totally undermines her claim,” the attorneys argue.
In her deposition, Beasmore claims she was harassed multiple times by former highway foreman Chip Chambers while working at the county highway facility. She claims he used racial epithets and quizzed her about past sexual relationships.
But the county’s attorneys say Beasmore’s own words tell a different story.
“Everything really, again, went too — I mean, started happening in February, and then it was too late because the Judge had already intimidated me to the point to where I knew there was no reason for me to go to him,” Beasmore said in her deposition.
“So by [Beasmore’s] own admission, nothing happened in between Dec. 7, 2007, and February 14, 2009,” the fiscal court’s attorneys wrote, adding that her sexual harassment claim should be dismissed as a “matter of law.”
In a response, Beasmore’s attorney outlines what she claimed was an ongoing period of sexual harassment by Chambers between late 2006 and early 2007.
Beasmore claims the harassment continued even after Judge-Executive Steve Cornish moved her from the highway facility to his office. There, she claims she was subjected to viewing pornographic videos and given sex devices by co-workers.
“Because Ms. Beasmore has presented sufficient facts to establish a … case of sexual harassment, the issue of whether the sexual harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive is a jury question and cannot be decided on summary judgment,” her attorney argues.

Employer liability
The fiscal court’s attorneys also argue that no employer liability exists. They say although the county’s policy on sexual harassment is not distributed, it does exist.
The attorneys say that county employees are aware of its sexual harassment policy, and Beasmore demonstrated her awareness by complaining about Chambers the day he allegedly harassed her.
“Thus, [Beasmore’s] knowledge, or lack thereof, of the policy had no causative effect on [her],” they wrote.
Beasmore’s attorney argues that the fiscal court not only failed to distribute the policy, it also did not provide training regarding sexual harassment.
“Therefore, the Anderson County Fiscal Court cannot escape liability for the sexual harassment of Ms. Beasmore by her supervisor, Chip Chambers,” her attorney argues.
“Any reasonable person would be offended by the actions and words of Mr. Chambers directed toward Ms. Beasmore, as well as the acts of [county inspectors] Dean Lickliter and Bobby Spencer.”

Whistleblower Act
Given its name to protect employees who point out government wrongdoing or waste, the fiscal court’s attorneys argue that Whistleblower Act does not apply to Beasmore, who on multiple occasions told Cornish about problems she found with finance officer Rick Waddle’s work.
“[Beasmore’s attorney] would have to believe that Judge Cornish purposefully orchestrated a scheme to have [Beasmore] tattle on Rick Waddle, so that he could then use that as a pretext for firing her,” the fiscal court’s attorneys argue, adding that Cornish didn’t need a reason to fire her because she was an “at will” employee.
“Anderson County reiterates that [Beasmore’s] argument is absurd.”
Beasmore’s attorney disagrees.
“Mrs. Beasmore can certainly present sufficient facts … for this matter to a jury,” her attorney argues, adding that Beasmore was fired just moments after Waddle and planning secretary Renee Evans complained to Cornish that she was causing too many disruptions in the county office.

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