GW asked city court last week to throw out a housekeeping employee’s $1.3 million lawsuit alleging that a University Police officer harassed and discriminated against her.
Housekeeping employee Rebecca Ashitey filed a complaint Sept. 1, claiming an officer discriminated against her on the basis of race and gender for five months and then assaulted her last October. The University claimed Ashitey’s case should not stand because she failed to follow the proper protocol for filing a lawsuit.
Ashitey sent her complaint to the incorrect address, and then, when correcting the mistake, sent an incomplete complaint that was not in line with the city’s regulations, according to GW’s court response.
She sent a preliminary complaint to the assistant general counsel for the Medical Faculty Associates – located on the Foggy Bottom Campus but independent from the University, according to the response. She sent an amended version Sept. 26 to the University’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Beth Nolan, but the complaint was sent via email, lacked a signature and did not summon a response from GW.
“To be effective service of process, the requisite papers must be signed and received by an appropriate party,” the documents read. University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard declined to comment on Ashitey’s complaint and GW’s call to drop the case because the litigation is still pending.
Ashitey, a citizen of Ghana and resident of Alexandria, Va., worked 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. shifts in the Marvin Center since she began working for GW in 2001.
Starting in May 2011, Ashitey said in her complaint, she faced an “endless barrage of questions” from an officer – identified in the complaint as J. Cates – at the building’s entrance before being allowed to enter. She said she was asked her name, social security number, date of birth and GWorld identification number upon arriving to work each day.
She also claims the officer assaulted her on Oct. 17, 2011 when she tried to pass him to enter the building for her shift.
He allegedly “attacked her from behind and threw her to the ground,” according to the complaint. Other UPD officers allegedly arrived on scene and handcuffed her.
Following the incident, Ashitey visited GW Hospital for “intense pain” and missed 12 weeks of work to undergo physical and emotional therapy, according to the complaint. Ashitey and her attorney, John Davis, did not return multiple requests for comment.
Jonathan Puth, an attorney specializing in employment discrimination and harassment lawsuits, said employers typically try to dismantle cases of harassment allegations before the lawsuits make any ground.
“A motion to dismiss is an effort to knock the case out at the very earliest stage to save money and difficulty with going forward in litigation,” Puth said. “By motion to dismiss, GW would be alleging even if everything the plaintiff says is true, is true, then it would not be a violation of law in any event.”