BATON ROUGE — A lawsuit filed against Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler accuses the elected official of sexually harassing an employee and retaliating against her for refusing his advances.
According to the lawsuit, the alleged harassment began in 2007, not long after Schedler started working for the Secretary of State’s Office as a first assistant under then-Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who now serves as commissioner of administration. It reportedly continued through 2017.
The lawsuit claims Schedler bought a townhouse in the same complex as the victim and began watching her activities, often commenting on them at work and asking about men who were at her home. It also accuses Schedler of punishing the woman for refusing his repeated advances, transferring her to various departments and assigning her manual labor and other “undesirable” assignments.
Schedler provided the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
“We take any allegation of sexual harassment very seriously here at the Secretary of State’s Office. I have not seen the suit or the specific details but as the father of three grown daughters and three granddaughters I can assure the public that I believe in a safe workplace, free from harassment, and will continue my record of transparency with my constituents.
“My wife and I have been living apart for a long time and our friends and family have known of our personal status and have lovingly supported our decision. We still very much respect one another and are fully committed to sharing in family events with our children and grandchildren as often as possible. While I understand that my service as a public official opens my private life to outside scrutiny, I’ve found support from others who have experienced similar marital issues in their personal life and can empathize.”
The lawsuit says in 2009, Schedler gave the woman a Valentine’s Day card addressed to “My Dearest Sunshine,” and said in the card that he was “not interested in a nice, normal relationship!”
The woman eventually accepted a position as Schedler’s executive assistant in 2011 when he was interim Secretary of State. He was elected to the position later that year.
She claims he told her at the time that he would not pursue her romantically anymore, but eventually reverted back to making sexual advances.
When she told him again that she would never “be interested in him sexually,” she was transferred to the Old State Capitol and given “virtually nothing to do all day,” according to the lawsuit.
“At the time of her transfer … Schedler made it clear to her that she was going to be exiled until she learned how to please him and make him happy,” the lawsuit states.