Shelia Jackson Lee leaves 2 posts after lawsuit
Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has stepped down from two of her key posts as she faces a lawsuit that alleges retribution to a staffer who reported sexual assault.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, issued a statement Wednesday announcing his support for Jackson Lee’s “decision to voluntarily and temporarily step back from the Crime Subcommittee Chair position.”
Nadler said that, during Jackson Lee’s temporary leave from the post, California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass would chair the subcommittee.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation issued a statement on Wednesday as well to announce her resignation as chairwoman of the nonprofit.
“The congresswoman values the Foundation’s ideals and does not want to be a distraction during the legal proceedings of the suit filed against the CBCF,” the foundation’s statement said.
The New York Times reported Jackson Lee’s decision came after pressure to do so in response to a lawsuit filed recently alleging she fired a staffer who reported sexual assault by a supervisor at the CBCF, a nonprofit entity Jackson Lee chaired.
In addition to her temporary leave from the subcommittee, the Times said Jackson Lee stepped down as chairwoman of the foundation after its board said she should do so last week or face a vote to remove her from the post.
Jackson Lee’s office referred CNN to both Nadler’s statement and the foundation. Additionally, Jackson Lee released a statement from her office last week declining “to discuss specific details about internal personnel matters” but otherwise denying the allegations.
“Congresswoman Jackson Lee has an outstanding record of supporting civil rights and non-discrimination, both in legislation and in her own office,” the statement read. “In fact, when Congresswoman Jackson Lee arrived in Congress in 1995, one of the first pieces of legislation she supported was the Congressional Accountability Act (“CAA”), which applied several civil rights, labor, disability, and safety laws to the US Congress and its offices.”
Asked by CNN on Thursday on Capitol Hill whether she regretted how the episode was handled, Jackson Lee responded “no comment.”
An anonymous plaintiff dubbed Jane Doe filed the lawsuit, dated January 11, 2019, in federal court against Jackson Lee and the foundation.
The suit said the anonymous former staffer was in the foundation’s internship program while studying at Howard University, and in the suit, she alleged her internship coordinator sexually assaulted her during her participation in the program. The suit said she later secured a job in Jackson Lee’s office, but was ultimately terminated. The suit seeks at least $75,000 and said Jackson Lee’s office and the foundation “unlawfully retaliated” against her after she threatened to sue over her alleged assault.
CNN has attempted to reach out to the internship coordinator named in the lawsuit for comment and has not yet received a response.
The statement from Jackson Lee’s office denied the allegations.
“While we still deny the allegations, 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,” last week’s statement read.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.