Women suing Dept. of Transportation over harrassment

By John O'Brien | Oct 13, 2006

CHARLESTON - Two sexual harassment cases were recently brought against the West Virginia Department of Transportation stemming from the alleged misconduct of two of its employees, one of which is alleged to have e-mailed bestiality photographs to a fellow employee.

Debbie Huffman and Natasha Craze describe inappropriate behavior on the parts of David McKenney and Frank Eder in suits filed Oct. 4 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Both women worked in the Division of Highways office and were under McKenney and Eder. Also named as defendants in the suit are Paul Mattox, secretary of the WVDOT, and William Perry, Dreama Smith and Jeff Black as employees of the WVDOT.

Both Huffman, of Elkview, and Craze, who was only 18 when she started at the WVDOT, claim McKenney subjected them to unwelcome sexual advances and touching, as well as requests for sexual favors.

In fact, Huffman says she was once called into McKenney's office only to find him exposing himself and masturbating. She says he then asked for oral sex.

Craze claims McKenney told her the Lord "blessed her up front" and repeatedly grabbed her breasts.

"Such conduct had the purpose and effect of unreasonably interfering with the plaintiff's work performance, creating an intimidating, hostile and/or offensive working environment and causing the plaintiff to miss numerous days of work," each complaint says.

Huffman adds that McKenney sent her vulgar e-mails that included images of bestiality, and that when she made her complaints public she was retaliated against.

She says Frank Eder then joined in on the harassment with the intention of getting her to quit. Also, despite being issued a handicap sticker for her car, she says she was forced to park at Laidley Field and walk to her office.

Huffman charges the defendants with sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation, gender discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision and strict liability. Both women also make claims for punitive damages.

They say the other defendants should have known what was going on and put a stop to it.

Charleston attorney William Forbes is representing the women.

Judge Irene Berger has been assigned Huffman's case, and Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker has been assigned Craze's case. Craze does not make an unlawful retaliation claim.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers 06-C-2052 and 06-C-2053

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