Iowa to Pay Workers Millions After Finding Agency Director Liable for Sexual Harassment

Iowa to Pay Workers Millions After Finding Agency Director Liable for Sexual Harassment

On Monday, February 4, 2019, the Iowa Appeals Board voted to approve two seven-figure settlements for workers who had repeatedly been sexually harassed by Dave Jamison, the state’s former Finance Authority Director. Under the terms of the settlement, the state’s former business development director, Beth Mahaffey, will receive $2.3 million and the current communications director, Ashley Jared, will get $1.8 million.

In an official statement published by The Des Moines Register, Ms. Jared said, "Coming forward to the governor about the sexual assault and harassment I was enduring by my then-executive director took every ounce of courage and strength I had." She hopes to put the incidents behind her and go “forward alongside my talented coworkers in a safe, dignified and respectful workplace."

Iowa Auditor Rob Sand, who voted against the settlement, objected to the state picking up the tab for Jamison’s malfeasance. "If harassers aren’t paying for their actions, neither should taxpayers," Sand said Monday.

However, Jamison hardly got off scot-free. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds fired him on March 24, only one day after the two victims presented her with “allegations that [Jamison] had made multiple vulgar and sexually inappropriate comments to [them].” Still, Jamison claimed in an “unsuccessful unemployment hearing” that neither Reynolds nor her staff investigated the allegations.

The prompt firing suggests that Reynolds, whose history with Jamison goes back many years to their work as county treasurers, had no difficulty finding Mahaffrey and Jared credible because she knew the sort of man she was dealing with. Reynolds’ attempted to dispel such suspicion and to distance herself from Jamison by stating “I had no idea that he behaved this way. I never witnessed or experienced anything like [this]. Had I known, I would have fired him a long time ago."

Jamison ultimately did receive due process, albeit after his firing, when an investigation found that he “had repeatedly engaged in brazen, sexually harassing and assaultive behavior aimed primarily at two female employees of the state agency.” The investigation uncovered several disturbing details, including:

  • December 2016 — During work-related travel, while Jamison and other agency employees were “drinking heavily” at a hotel, Jamison intentionally and without consent grabbed the breasts of a female employee, as part of a risqué joke for which he later apologized.
  • March 2018 — While in the passenger seat of his car with a female employee driving, Jamison played a pornographic video on his cellphone while they traveled between work-related events in Nebraska and Iowa and kept up a sexually charged commentary.  

Jamison apparently used different strategies, from bribery to intimidation, to cover his tracks. The investigation found that from January 2011 through March 2018 the salary of a female employee he'd allegedly harassed roughly doubled from about $50,000 to more than $100,000. Jamison reportedly threatened an employee with retaliation if he reported the offensive conduct, telling him, “You must be allergic to a paycheck.” Jamison also made much of his close relationship with the governor to discourage employees from reporting his behavior.

Anyone who is enduring sexual harassment should take heart from this story. Once again, a seemingly powerful abuser is brought down by his arrogant and offensive conduct, and the victims are appropriately compensated. The tables have turned on abusers like Jamison, and the power no lies with the workers who no longer have to suffer repeated indignities. If you’ve endured anything like Mahaffrey and Jared, you owe it to yourself to come forward. Let us help.

Do you think were harassed at work or by a co-worker? Visit our workplace harassment FAQ page for more information. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online or by phone at 877.858.8018. All inquiries are protected by the attorney-client privilege and kept CONFIDENTIAL. (There is never a fee for a consultation.)

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Related topics: hostile workplace (17) | sexual harassment (34)


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