NC AG requests sexual misconduct lawsuit against Jay Gaither be - | WBTV Charlotte

NC AG requests sexual misconduct lawsuit against Jay Gaither be dismissed

CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

North Carolina's Attorney General has filed a motion to have a sexual harassment lawsuit against Catawba County District Attorney Jay Gaither thrown out.

The lawsuit was filed against Gaither in June by a former Assistant District Attorney claiming he made sexual advances towards her and discriminated against her.

Whitney Nicole Shaffer filed the lawsuit in federal court, suing Gaither as an individual and in his official role of District Attorney.

Cooper filed the motion Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that the allegations do not warrant Gaither being sued in his official capacity.

Shaffer began working as an ADA in February 2013 and reported to Gaither.

Shaffer claims Gaither made sexual advances towards her, sent her inappropriate text messages and often made her feel intimidated by the things he said to her.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the full outline of Shaffer's lawsuit

Gaither told Shaffer he needed her cell phone number so that he could easily reach her since that didn't typically see one another before court, Shaffer claimed in the lawsuit.

In April 2013, Gaither began sending messages to her which were "very clearly not work related," Shaffer's suit claims.

In Wednesday's filing, Cooper says the text messages show that Gaither and Shaffer socialized outside of the office, texting about scheduling work outs together, Shaffer's attire and meeting for dinner.

"The text messages between the two also reveal that [Shaffer] and [Gaither] had a mutual personal relationship in addition to a work relationship," the dismissal motion claims.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read text message screen grabs that were filed in court, allegedly between Gaither and Shaffer (**WARNING: Material in the texts may not be appropriate for all readers**)

Shaffer claims Gaither would take her phone away and demand she delete text messages from her phone. Her lawsuit claims that she was scared of losing her job and did what he told her to do.

Cooper says Shaffer's lawsuit acknowledges that Gaither "acted outside the course and scope of this position" as District Attorney, yet she uses those same facts to sue him in his official capacity.

"The actions described in the complaint concern intentional and willful actions performed by Defendant Gaither in his individual capacity only to fulfill his personal, sexual needs and do not relate to his official duties as duly elected district attorney," the motion claims.

The motion says Shaffer should not be able to claim sexual harassment because the text messages she submitted as evidence against Gaither show her "coquettish" responses to his texts. Cooper says her responses to his text messages reveal that Gaither's advances were "welcomed."

"[Shaffer's] sexually charged responses to [Gaither's] texts indicate that she was open to [his] advances and even welcomed the attention," the motion claims.

Cooper says there is nothing in the text messages that show Gaither's advances were not welcome, "despite have the opportunity to do so."

Shaffer claims that Gaither became more aggressive and forward with his sexual advances. She says she was worried about her job and her physical safety, worried that he would show up at her home unannounced.

"It is wholly unclear how [Gaither] reacted in his official capacity as the District Attorney [...], if at all, to [Shaffer's] purported rejection to his advances," Cooper stated in the motion. "And the complaint certainly does not contain any allegations that he made overtures to change her employment status, terms, or duties."

The motion continues that Shaffer provided no evidence that Gaither made her working conditions "intolerable" other than saying he did.

According to the lawsuit, Shaffer texted Gaither on May 5 to let him know she left her Letter of Resignation on her desk and it would be effective immediately.

"My letter of resignation is on my former desk in hickory[sic]. I regret I cannot work a notice," she texted him. "I do not intend to make a public issue of my concerns so any concerns about the election or your family should not be an issue. It would be better to avoid contacting me again. You can tell others I am pursuing an alternative job opportunity."

In her lawsuit, Shaffer claims that she had no avenue for reporting Gaither's behavior towards her, but the Attorney General points out that she could have reported her concerns to human resource officials at the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). She also could have filed to have Gaither removed from office 'since she viewed his actions as 'wholly inappropriate'."

The lawsuit claims that Gaither then began telling people he had fired Shaffer for misconduct.

Gaither is married and has four children. He spoke out about the lawsuit in late June.

"While I am human and I make mistakes, I own up to the mistakes I make," Gaither continued. "This is not one of those occasions. Her claim of sexual harassment is unfounded and false, which is why her EEOC complaint was dismissed."

Gaither is referring to a discrimination claim Shaffer reportedly filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on October 25, 2013, according to the lawsuit. She claimed Gaither had violated a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC told WBTV that complaints made to the EEOC are strictly confidential, and it is "prohibited from commenting on them, furnishing any information on them, or even confirming or denying the existence of such a charge."

Shaffer is suing Gaither on multiple counts of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and defamation. She has requested trial with a jury.

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