A former deputy court clerk claims she was sexually harassed by a former deputy constable, who earlier this year was awarded more than $560,000 in a lawsuit claiming he was sexually harassed by the former Precinct 7 constable.
The lawsuit against Galveston County claims former deputy Constable James Gist, who is not named as a defendant, subjected former court clerk Tomasa Duran to “ongoing and pervasive” sexual harassment beginning in May 2011.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, claims Gist made sexual comments and rubbed female employees’ shoulders at the county’s Precinct 7 office, and claims the county refused to address Duran’s complaints about the alleged harassment.
Duran was fired in August 2012 after reporting alleged sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the lawsuit.
A Galveston County jury in May awarded Gist, now a sergeant in the Clear Lake Shores Police Department, about $567,000 in a lawsuit that claimed he was sexually harassed by former Constable Pam Matranga.
Matranga, who lost a re-election bid in 2012, was accused of pulling her shirt over employees’ heads and using bawdy language, including the phrase “duck taco” to refer to genitalia.
Matranga was eventually removed as a party in the lawsuit, leaving the county as the only defendant.
During that trial, Duran was subpoenaed and called as a witness by county attorneys. She testified then that Gist had massaged the shoulders of female employees and made sexual comments at the Precinct 7 office.
Other witness testimony during that trial described a tight-knit group of deputy constables who were comfortable making jokes of a sexual nature.
Gist, who also testified, said locker room humor was common among officers, but denied then that he had himself sexually harassed anyone.
Attorney Tom Padgett, who is representing Duran, said his client’s claims against the county had “been in the works” before Gist’s successful lawsuit.
He said the outcome of that lawsuit did indicate there was a problematic atmosphere that helped cause the alleged sexual harassment.
“The county allowed the environment to get poisonous, and failed to take it seriously,” Padgett said.
Duran reported Gist’s alleged behavior to her supervisor and Matranga, but no significant action was taken, according to the lawsuit.
Padgett said his client was issued two written warnings and fired in August 2012 under the “pretext” that she was being rude and unprofessional toward other employees.
County attorney Barry Willey said an outside firm was handling the case for the county. He said the county does not comment on pending litigation.
Duran is seeking reinstatement to her former position, lost wages and unspecified damages, according to the lawsuit.