Sheila Jackson Lee steps down from subcommittee amid ex-staffer's lawsuit

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas is stepping down from her position as leader of one of the House Judiciary Committee's key subcommittees following a lawsuit from a former employee who says her sexual assault complaint was mishandled.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was Jackson Lee's decision to step aside as chairwoman of the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee.

Nadler said Jackson Lee's decision "does not suggest any culpability" but "was to ensure the subcommittee's important work continues."

Jackson Lee, who has served in Congress since 1995, is also chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Congressional Black Caucus. Calls to Jackson Lee's office and to the foundation were not immediately returned.

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence had said it would not work with Jackson Lee as the lead sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act.

This comes following a lawsuit in which a former member of her office and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation said Jackson Lee mishandled a report of sexual assault.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, accuses Jackson Lee's office and the foundation of retaliation after the woman was sexually assaulted by a foundation employee in 2015 and threatened to sue.

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, in a statement, called her a "strong ally" but said that it "cannot, however, support her continued lead sponsorship."

In a statement last week, Jackson Lee's office said while it could not discuss internal personnel matters, it "adamantly denies the allegations that it retaliated against, or otherwise improperly treated, the plaintiff."

Later Wednesday, Jackson Lee's office released a statement regarding the lawsuit against her:

The Office adamantly denies the allegations that it retaliated against, or otherwise improperly treated, the plaintiff. It is against office policy to discuss specific details about internal personnel matters.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee has an outstanding record of supporting civil rights and non-discrimination, both in legislation and in her own office. 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 U.S. Congress and its offices. Further, the Congresswoman also supports the recent amendments to the CAA. This law required legislative branch offices, for the first time, to be subject to many of the same employment and workplace laws that applied to the private sector and the federal government. This legislation also set forth a dispute resolution procedure that allows an employee who feels he or she has been aggrieved, to pursue a claim through an administrative process or through federal court. The plaintiff chose federal court and she has every right to utilize this process and pursue a claim through the CAA. Although the Congresswoman is eager to respond substantively, she will do so only at the appropriate time, as the court docket dictates. The Congresswoman is confident that, once all of the facts come to light, her Office will be exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct and this matter will be put to rest.

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. Further, we maintain our support for survivors and the assistance they need.

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