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Press Release: Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed by Female Employee Against Kenai Peninsula Borough and Former Borough Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Charlie Pierce

Posted by Caitlin Shortell | Oct 23, 2022

A lawsuit was filed today in Kenai Superior Court. Pamela Wastell, the plaintiff in this case, is a female employee who alleges that KPB and Pierce subjected her to hostile work environment sexual harassment culminating in her constructive discharge. Plaintiff Wastell alleges that former Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce sexually harassed her and that the Borough failed to implement procedures to report sexual harassment and took no corrective action. The allegations include multiple incidents of sexual advances and inappropriate sexual remarks from early 2021 to July of 2022. Plaintiff alleges that the Borough knew or should have known that Pierce was a sexual harasser and a bully, since four other employees had experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, or bullying prior to Wastell.

“When an elected official abuses their power and position to sexually harass public servants, they must be held accountable,” said Plaintiff's Attorney Caitlin Shortell.

The complaint alleges claims of Breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; violations of A.S. §18.80.220(a)(1)(The Alaska Human Rights Act); Assault and Battery; Negligence; Intrusion Upon Seclusion; and Infliction of Emotional Distress (Negligent and Intentional).

The Complaint alleges that Defendant KPB violated the Alaska Human Rights Act it subjected Wastell to sexual harassment so severe and pervasive that it forced her out of her employment.  Pierce used his power and position to sexually harass Wastell and at least two other female Borough employees. The sexual harassment included, among other things, sexual remarks and inappropriate discussion of sexual matters, offensive and unwelcome kisses, embraces, touching her breast, massages, sexual advances, and detaining Wastell in his private office.

Borough management was aware of Pierce's misconduct toward other employees that resulted in settlement agreements and litigation, but the Borough failed to take any corrective action and failed to implement reporting procedures for employees experiencing discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

“No one should be forced to endure sexual harassment and the lasting damages that Ms. Wastell and several other employees have suffered due to the Borough's failure to implement reporting procedures or to take corrective action to protect employees from Pierce. Ms. Wastell has brought this lawsuit to enforce her right to be free of workplace discrimination and harassment.” Shortell said.

About the Author

Caitlin Shortell

Attorney Caitlin Shortell is a 2023 Super Lawyer in Labor and Employment, a National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Civil Plaintiff's Lawyer in Alaska, and a 2023 YWCA Women of Achievement.