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Baltimore housing authority wants sexual harassment suit tossed

Ex-Gilmor Homes employee says behavior occurred ‘within context’ of sex-for-repairs allegations

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City is seeking to dismiss a multimillion dollar federal lawsuit filed by an employee who worked at Gilmor Homes alleging sexual harassment by a manager over the course of several years.

In a complaint filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Nadine Lee Young alleged Wade Johnson, a maintenance superintendent, subjected her to persistent sexual abuse and harassment and created a hostile work environment.

Young alleged violations of state and federal civil rights, the state and federal constitutions, as well as negligent hiring and negligent entrustment. The lawsuit alleged the workplace harassment occurred “in the context” of the “widespread sex-for-repairs quid pro quo sexual harassment” which lead to a class settlement in January 2016.

“The practice of covering up sexual harassment by maintenance workers is so widespread that it is a pattern and practice by the Housing Authority, whose officials have repeatedly turned their backs on city residents and on their own employees,” the complaint said. “For years, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City has ignored numerous complaints and repeatedly allowed abusers to maintain their positions of power.”

Young is represented by Cary J. Hansel, a Baltimore solo practitioner, who previously represented a class of women in the sex-for-repairs litigation.

In asking Monday for the case to be dismissed, the housing authority argued that Young’s claims are barred because she did not timely file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission or the local commission, nor did she follow agency protocols for reporting inappropriate workplace conduct. Young’s lawsuit said her harassment occurred between 2012 and early 2016, while harassment must be reported to the relevant bodies within six months, according to the housing authority.

Young said when she first met Johnson he called her “Miss Dimples” and once he became her supervisor would “whisper lewd comments in her ear and ask to take her on dates,” the lawsuit states. She also said Johnson offered to take her and another employee on a cruise and said he “could make wonders happen.”

The agency argued the behavior Young alleges does not rise to the level of offensive conduct required to sustain a claim under federal and state law.

“She does not claim objectively unwelcome conduct that amounts to sexual harassment sufficiently severe to alter her conditions of employment,” the motion to dismiss said.

Young also contended Johnson had a history of sexual harassment at prior jobs but does not indicate how the housing authority would have been aware of that information, according to the motion to dismiss.

Young also did not comply with the Local Government Tort Claims Act, according to the agency.

The case is Nadine Lee Young v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City, 1:17-cv-00713-MDG.

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