Former employee files sexual harassment suit against City of Huntington

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A former municipal court clerk has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the City of Huntington, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Texas. In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges "severe and pervasive sexual" conduct by the city administrator.

The lawsuit was filed by Deadra Lynn Combs on Dec. 11 after she received notice from the US Department of Justice stating that she had the right to file the law suit. Initially, Combs filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"It's astonishing to me that this kind of behavior is acceptable," Huntington City Administrator Bruce Milstead said in a phone interview. "This is an absolutely bogus lawsuit, and it has no grounds whatsoever. Like anything else, it will be handled by the courts."

In the lawsuit's complaint, Combs alleges that Milstead discriminated against her by creating "a sexually hostile work place" and that his behavior affected her work performance.

"Specifically, Bruce Milstead's severe and pervasive conduct caused plaintiff to avoid him and be less productive in her job duties," the complaint states.

The lawsuit claims that after Combs rejected Milstead's advances, she went to her direct supervisor, Betsy Gregson, and told her about the city administrator's behavior. She then filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Combs was fired from her position as the municipal court clerk within a week of when the City of Huntington was notified about her EEOC complaint.

"Defendant did not exercise reasonable care to prevent and cure allegations of sexual harassment," the lawsuit alleges. "Defendant ratified the wrongful conduct by failing to take appropriate remedial action after becoming aware of the conduct."

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial, along with unspecified damages for lost income, money spent in seeking other employment, damages to Comb's pension or retirement benefits, mental anguish "in the form of lost sleep, anxiety, and depression, legal fees, and "all other relief the court deems appropriate."

Milstead said Combs was terminated from her job as the municipal court clerk because her work performance didn't meet the city's standards.

'This notice should not be taken to mean that the Department of Justice has made a judgment to whether or not your case in is meritorious," Karen L. Ferguson, a supervisory civil rights analyst, said in the notice that Combs received from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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