Jefferson City, MO– A former legislative intern alleges that a Democratic state Senator sexually harassed her by asking for sexual favors and retaliated against her when she refused his advances. But the legislator denies the allegations, pitting his word against hers.
The recently released results of a Senate investigation mirror the original allegations made by the intern, but doesn’t say whether the allegations have merit, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
According to the intern, LeVota solicited her for sex, sent her unwanted texts and retaliated when she complained. She told investigators that the harassment occurred one night after she attended a legislative function with the Senator and was staying at LeVota’s duplex. That’s when he allegedly said to her on two occasions, “if you want to sleep with me tonight, I won’t tell you no,” the Star Tribune reported.
The intern said she interpreted that as a direct solicitation for sex and complained. After complaining, the intern says she was not given assignments and was ostracized in the office.
LeVota, a married father of two, denied the intern’s allegations and said he had no plans of resigning from the state legislature.
“At no time did I act inappropriately, through text messages or in person, with this intern or anyone else,” LeVota said in a statement to the Associated Press via the Star-Tribune. “I never asked her to do anything inappropriate; I never contacted her after hours, I never made sexual advances toward her, and neither I nor anyone on my staff ever retaliated against her in any way.”
LeVota added that if the Senate found the allegations to be true, the Senate would take steps to reprimand him, but that hasn’t happened this far.
These allegations were preceded complaints from two students at the University of Central Missouri who also said LeVota sexually harassed them. Those allegations resulted in a UCM investigation which was also inconclusive
When it comes to sexual harassment, interns don’t have the same protections as employees and have fewer courses of action they can take when they are sexually harassed. Only a handful of states actually allow interns to file civil suits for sexual harassment and retaliation—Missouri is not one of them–a shame when you consider how rampant sexual harassment is on school campuses and in the workplace.
Paying interns is one way to protect them from maltreatment, but that is unlikely to come to fruition. The other way would be to amend federal laws to include interns as a protected class, but with the current atmosphere in D.C. that wouldn’t be possible any time in the near future. Even if you are an intern and are not sure about your rights, contact a sexual harassment attorney near you in Missouri to see if you have the legal ground to file a civil suit.
At USAttorneys, we have a team of employment law attorneys who will apply their talent and skills to your case. With their help, you may be eligible for compensation for your lost wages and emotional distress.