Judge throws out sexual harassment suit against House

Thursday, November 1, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- A judge has thrown out a $2 million sexual harassment lawsuit against the Missouri House brought by a former House worker.

St. Louis County Circuit Judge James Hartenbach did not indicate why he granted a summary judgment Monday and threw out Carrie Fisher's case. Lawyers for the House had argued that the 27-year-old House publications worker lacked grounds to sue.

Fisher's attorney, Robert W. Russell, said Tuesday he and his client had not yet decided whether to appeal.

As part of her suit filed in January, Fisher alleged that her supervisors did not do enough to protect her in 1999 from the harassment of a male co-worker. Fisher also accused House officials of retaliation after she made the complaint against computer technician Tim Ragsdale, 23.

Lawyers for the House have not denied the accusations against Ragsdale, who no longer works there, but have defended the response of House officials.

Fisher also alleged she was denied tuition reimbursement for communications and computer science classes she took for the job. Lawyers for the House countered that the reimbursement dispute was unrelated to Fisher's harassment complaint, and that Fisher simply did not qualify for the benefit.

The lawsuit had claimed that former chief clerk Anne Walker wanted to "hide" Fisher in the Capitol instead of punishing Ragsdale, against whom Fisher then sought a restraining order a week before Ragsdale quit his job for unknown reasons.

Fisher alleged that Ragsdale never was disciplined and did not curb his behavior, even after he was ordered to by his supervisors.

In an affidavit, Walker said she did not want to force a confrontation with Ragsdale.

"Essentially what this employee has done is blow the whistle on a problem," said Kathleen Clark, a Washington University law school professor who teaches a course on government ethics.

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