When the Harasser is a Prosecuting Attorney

Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Avi Kumin was quoted in an article for the St. Louis based Riverfront Times titled “She Said St. Francois County Prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin Harassed Her. Then He Fired Her.”

Lisa Davidson was a secretary in Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin’s office for years, and was one of the few victims brave enough to chronicle her experiences with a reporter. In the article, she recounts Mahurin’s long history of harassing behavior, which included sexual comments, sexting, and propositions. She and other colleagues seriously considered taking legal action, and even consulted with an attorney. Ultimately, Davidson pursued legal action independently – filing a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. When Mahurin found out about the complaint, he fired her.

The standard to prove a sexually hostile work environment is that the unwelcome sexual conduct is “severe or pervasive” enough that it alters the conditions of employment – a barrier that Mr. Kumin believes this case clears.

“You can’t look at any of these things in isolation,” he explains. “[T]his is coming within the context of unwelcome sexual comments about their bodies, sexual comments in general, sexual innuendo, sexual advances, and now on top of that there’s this other instance where he’s showing them sexual pictures, and it certainly adds to the sexual harassment that they’re experiencing.”

While some employees have defended Mahurin, others have simply stayed quiet, which is quite common in harassment cases. “We commonly deal with victims of sexual harassment that kind of grin and bear severe and pervasive sexual harassment for years and they’re too fearful to come forward,” says Mr. Kumin.

Considering the context of Mahurin’s reputation, it is not surprising that he would retaliate against Davidson. Another employee of the department, Stephanie Williams, recalls the hostile emails that Mahurin would send whenever he heard unfavorable small-town gossip. And police officer Ryan Miller saw his law enforcement career essentially ended over a seemingly benign Facebook comment.

For the first time in his political career, Mahurin will have an electoral opponent this upcoming election ­– a coincidence that he finds suspicious. For Davidson and Williams, it’s an opportunity for change.

Read the full story here.