Sheila Jackson Lee Leaves Judiciary Committee After Former Staffer Alleges She Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Assault

Illustration for article titled Sheila Jackson Lee Leaves Judiciary Committee After Former Staffer Alleges She Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Assault
Image: United States Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. (Getty Images)

Longtime Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has announced plans to resign as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ nonprofit operation, after she was named in a lawsuit alleging she fired a young woman who planned to press charges after an alleged sexual assault by a former Congressional Black Congress Foundation employee.

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Jackson Lee also vacated her seat on the powerful Judiciary committee, while stepping down as chair of a subcommittee on an interim basis.

The ex-staffer, identified as Jane Doe in the suit, alleged a 30-year-old supervisor assaulted her in 2015. Doe, a 19-year-old Howard undergrad at the time of the assault, alleges her male supervisor forced her to perform oral sex at his home before she woke up naked and in pain the next day.

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Doe met Glenn Rushing, Jackson Lee’s chief of staff, at a networking event two years after the alleged assault, as a recent college graduate. Determined to make a name for herself in national politics, she was hired as a special assistant and director of public engagement. After learning of her alleged assailant’s desire to work with Jackson Lee, Doe told Rushing “that she had a “prior situation’ with (him) and was not comfortable working with him.” Rushing told her she would not hire him.

Doe, who is seeking damages of $75,000, was fired on March 29th of last year. According to the suit, she was told she would be let go “because of budgetary issues.” Struggling with anxiety and depression since her assault, her conditioned worsened.

In a statement released earlier today, Jackson Lee denied any retaliation on her part.

“While we still deny the allegations,” said the statement, “we are especially concerned about Ms. Doe and only want the best for her and the many, many young people that the Congressional office has supported, encouraged and provided opportunities for over 20 years.”

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“The congresswoman is confident,” the statement continued,“that, once all of the facts come to light, her office will be exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct and this matter will be put to rest.”

Contributing Editor. When he's not pullin' up, he's usually jumpin' out. You can find him in the cut.

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DISCUSSION

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I don’t think Jane Doe is lying (I’m not blindly believing, but I obviously have no reason to think it’s not true), but there is very little information regarding what Sheila Jackson Lee or even her staff knew about the assault. If any of them knew the specifics and didn’t take proper action, then yes, they should definitely face justice, but hopefully more details will emerge.

Also, it could be the early hour, but it took me a few minutes to decipher the “who”s and “what”s of the story.