Native American beauty queen sues former employer

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A Native American beauty queen is suing her former employer over claims they tried to cover up alleged sexual harassment and battery.

A Charlotte lawyer for Ashley Haywood, the 2008 "Miss Lumbee" of Robeson County, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Mecklenburg County.

Attorney Josh Van Kampen said his client filed in Charlotte because she feared she could not get a fair trial in her home town of Pembroke, which is about two hours southwest of Charlotte.

In the lawsuit, Haywood alleges she went to work for the Lumbee Tribe's housing office in 2009.

Haywood claimed her boss, Rev. Jimmy Hunt, almost immediately began making advances and sexually harassing her, making statements like "My wife doesn't fulfill my needs so I need a young woman like you to do that," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the verbal abuse continued with inappropriate touching, and a pornographic video that Hunt allegedly downloaded on Haywood's computer and asked her to watch.

In November 2009, Haywood claimed Hunt grabbed her in the office, forced her into a corner, and forcibly groped and kissed her.

The lawsuit said Haywood reported the alleged attack to her tribal leaders, who discouraged her from pursuing the matter further.

"Ashley started carrying around scissors, because frankly she thought she was going to be raped," Van Kampen said.

Haywood eventually filed a grievance against Hunt in 2010, and an investigation was launched, but during that time, Hunt left his position in the tribe's housing office, according to the lawsuit.

Haywood still wanted to press criminal charges, according to the lawsuit, but said tribal leaders threatened she would lose her job if word leaked out.

"She was told she would lose her job if she went to police," Van Kampen said.

Soon after, Hunt returned to tribe's housing office as an inspector, and Haywood was then called into a meeting with tribal leaders, according to the lawsuit.

"She was suspended and abruptly terminated," Van Kampen said.

Haywood is now seeking damages for harassment, battery and wrongful discharge.

Van Kampen believes other women may have been targeted by Hunt and he is asking anyone with information to call his law office at 704-247-3245.

Lumbee Tribe officials did not return a call seeking comment on the allegations.