FRANKFORT—A motion filed this week in a harassment lawsuit filed by female state House staffers and members of the General Assembly asks the court to reconsider its dismissal of House Speaker Greg Stumbo as a defendant.
The motion was filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court in the suit brought by Legislative Research Commission employees Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper, who allege they were sexually harassed and assaulted by former lawmaker Rep. John Arnold over a period of years. Arnold resigned last year, and was convicted of ethics charges stemming from the allegations in May.
Stumbo successfully moved the court to dismiss him from the suit in December, arguing that Stumbo and the LRC, which is also named as a defendant “are indistinguishable … and naming them both is unnecessary,” according to the Dec. 5, 2013 order issued by Judge Thomas Wingate.
But the new motion argues that because the LRC and the Kentucky House should be considered as the plaintiffs’ joint employer, Stumbo should be remitted as a defendant.
“We are confident that the court’s well-reasoned order from last December will stand,” Anna Whites, an attorney for Stumbo, said in a statement provided to Kentucky Public Radio on Thursday.
“[As] Speaker of the House of Representatives, he should be considered either a joint employer of the plaintiffs along with the LRC, or the LRC and the House of Representatives should be considered a single employer,” David Ward, an attorney representing the women, said in a phone interview Friday.
“Basically, it’s like a company and its subsidiary.”
The plaintiffs’ motion also argues that the LRC should be held liable for Arnold’s actions under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act even if the court determines that Arnold isn’t technically an LRC employee. Attorneys for the LRC maintain that Arnold isn’t an LRC employee, and that the LRC should not be held liable for his actions.
The motion also seeks to rebuke the LRC’s claims that it is entitled to immunity. The motion argues that legislative immunity only applies to lawmakers conducting official legislative duties.
The women are seeking compensation for embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish and retaliation, as well as attorneys’ fees.
A hearing on the motion will be heard in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday.