Lawsuit accuses district attorney of harassment

by: Alexa Ashwell Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A prominent district attorney is being sued by one of his former workers, accusing him of harassing and groping her.
 
The lawsuit was filed Thursday against Jay Gaither by Whitney Nicole Shaffer -- one of his former assistant district attorneys.
 
The 50-page document paints an entirely different picture of the district attorney who gained fame prosecuting the Zahra Baker murder case.
 
Gaither is the DA over Caldwell, Catawba and Burke counties.
 
This lawsuit accuses him of using his position to sexually harass and intimidate her claiming he often showed up to her office when she was all alone.
 
It details one incident in April of 2013 when the Shaffer said Gaither insisted she go out to dinner with him and afterwards, she said, "He put his hand on plaintiff's left thigh and began to move his hand up her inner thigh."
 
The lawsuit said she tried to stop him.
 
For the next several days, she said he continued to text her repeatedly.
 
One of those texts said, "I've laid hands on you and love the feel of your body."
 
She turned in her resignation seven days later.
 
In October of 2013, she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and on June 11, received a right-to-sue letter from the Department of Justice.
 
Gaither sent Channel 9 a statement claiming Shaffer was "caught in bed with a local defense attorney by his wife. As a result she was forced to leave my office and since then she has carried out a vendetta against me. She was publicly humiliated and in attempt to salvage her professional reputation she has pointed a finger at me."

On Friday, Gaither sent an additional statement, “I have made a public statement regarding the true circumstances of my former employee’s departure from my office.  At this time I believe it is incumbent upon her to address the issue of whether she had a sexual relationship with a married defense attorney who regularly appeared as opposing counsel in her Court.  I believe she owes that to the voters of this district.

While I am human and I make mistakes, I own up to the mistakes I make.  This is not one of those occasions.  Her claim of sexual harassment is unfounded and false, which is why her EEOC complaint was dismissed.”

Shaffer is currently an assistant DA in Transylvania and Polk counties.

The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages, but did not specify a dollar amount.

Her family told Channel 9 she did not want to comment Thursday night on the lawsuit.