VICARIOUS LIABILITY: When one person is liable for the negligent actions of another person, even though the first person was not directly responsible for the injury. For instance, a parent sometimes can be vicariously liable for the harmful acts of a child, and an employer sometimes can be vicariously liable for the acts of a worker. (The ‘Lectric Law Library, http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/u035.htm)
Imagine that a manager supervises a staff for a large manufacturer, and during the course of his tenure he called one female employee a “crack ho,” another employee “fat” and a third a “dyke.” And he did his dirty deeds in front of other employees.
The three victimized workers then retain an attorney and file a lawsuit against the manufacturing company claiming sexual harassment and that the company is vicariously liable for that manager’s harsh and unconscionable behavior. At some point during this process it is discovered that this manager has been sued before for the same actions.
How long do you think it would be before that company’s brass would take action to not only fire the manager but also deny responsibility for his behavior, claiming he did not utter the offensive remarks as part of his job?
Well, this scenario exists in Forsyth County involving, of all people, elections director Rob Coffman. Coffman is currently being sued in Forsyth County, and Coffman has a record of being sued for sexual harassment. In 1995, he was sued for sexual harassment in Michigan and settled the lawsuit before it went to court.
Three former staffers — Pamela Johnson, Terry Cox and Deena Head — at the board of elections have sued Forsyth County, the Forsyth County Board of Elections and Coffman. The suit claims the county and board are guilty of negligence in hiring Coffman and not immediately firing him after accusations of sexual harassment came out. The suit also accuses Coffman of turning a blind eye to election-law violations.
These former staff members have accused Coffman of calling one employee a “crack ho” and saying that another one “runs her mouth too much and she’s too fat.” The suit also accuses him of calling an employee a “dyke” in front of co-workers and asking aloud whether a teenage girl who had won a costume contest had dressed “like a prostitute.”
County attorneys have filed a response stating that Johnson, Cox and Head “did not file official complaints with the county or follow the county’s internal grievance process.” County attorneys also asserted that the lawsuit should be barred on the basis of governmental immunity.
In the Forsyth County case, Head accused Coffman in the lawsuit of calling her a “crack ho.” In fact, Coffman acknowledged that a comment he made was “completely in the wrong” in a 2008 incident involving Head. He said he received counseling and has denied making any inappropriate comments since then.
Here is the interesting fact about all this for Forsyth County taxpayers: As this lawsuit unfolds, tax dollars will be spent to defend Forsyth County, the Forsyth County Board of Elections and Coffman.
What? Pay for Coffman’s personal legal bills? Yes, you read that right, and it should make every citizen in Forsyth County so mad you can’t see straight. The hard-working taxpayers of Forsyth County are paying lawyers to defend Coffman’s personal actions. The taxpayers are paying to defend Coffman’s comments in 2008 when he called another individual a “crack ho.” This isn’t right.
How did this happen? The Forsyth County commissioners voted on hiring an outside law firm and passed it. The only commissioner to vote against paying for Coffman’s personal legal bills was Debra Conrad.
As taxpayers of Forsyth County, we should demand that Coffman immediately be required to pay his own legal fees.
- Nathan Tabor