Donald Trump and his businesses have been sued for sexual harassment at least 20 times

Of more than 100 employment-related lawsuits, at least 20 have involved women who allege harassment or sexual discrimination

Feliks Garcia
New York
Monday 10 October 2016 21:49
<em>Ian MacNicol/Getty</em>
Ian MacNicol/Getty

Donald Trump and his companies have been accused of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at least 20 times in a series of lawsuits spanning three decades.

Among thousands of lawsuits filed against Trump organisations reviewed by USA Today, 20 of the 130 employment cases found involve complaints from women who describe a culture of sexual harassment that date back to the early 1980s.

The report comes as the Trump campaign hemorrhaged Republican support following the release of 2005 video that captured the presidential nominee suggesting he could sexually assault women because of his star power. And as Mr Trump himself insists nobody has more respect for women than he does, public record continues to suggest otherwise.

In one case, a woman who worked at the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami, Florida, alleged in a state and federal lawsuit that she was fired after becoming pregnant. Itzel Hudek claims that her supervisor became annoyed with accommodating her schedule and laid her off. The case was settled by Ms Hudek’s lawyers for an undisclosed amount.

A recent case involved a woman, Erin Breen, who sued after allegedly enduring “persistent, unwelcome sexual advances” by a manager at the Trump Kids Club in Jupiter, Florida. Two weeks after filing a complaint with human resources and another supervisor this summer, Ms Breen claimed to have been fired.

General counsel for the Trump Organisation, Jill Martin, told USA Today that the claims are “without merit” and “we look forward to defeating” Ms Breen in court.

Only a few of the reviewed lawsuits directly accused Mr Trump of harassment – but a number of Los Angeles employees complain of discriminatory behaviour from the New York businessman.

Lucy Messerschmidt filed a class-action lawsuit that alleged she was fired after grievances over her managers denying her shifts because of her age and appearance. More than 1,000 employees of the Rancho Palos Verdes, California, golf course signed on to the suit with similar claims of discriminatory workplace treatment of women from Mr Trump and managers on the basis of looks or age.

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When Mr Trump visited the golf course, Ms Messerschmidt claimed, she was taken off shift because the mogul “likes to see fresh faces” and “young girls”.

Prior to the class-action suit, another waitress at the club, Maral Bolsajian, said she met Mr Trump at least five times between 2007 and 2010.

“Mr Trump regularly greeted me with expressions like ‘How’s my favourite girl?’” she testified. “Later, after he learned [by asking] that I was married – and happily so – he regularly asked, ‘Are you still happily married?’ whenever he say me.”

Explaining that Mr Trump often asked her to pose in photos with him, she added: “I found these actions inappropriate and uncomfortable, but I felt I had little recourse given that Donald Trump is not only the head of the company but also one of the most powerful, well-known people in the United States.”

The Rancho Palo Verdes lawsuit was settled by lawyers in 2013.

A more high profile case that has garnered attention in recent months involves, Jill Harth, who teamed up with Mr Trump and her now husband George Houraney on a deal for a beauty pageant called the American Dream Festival in the 1990s.

Ms Harth and Mr Houraney filed a federal lawsuit against Mr Trump for allegedly not paying them what he owed in the deal. In court statements, Ms Harth accused Mr Trump of groping her at meetings and parties throughout their business interactions. Ms Harth accused Mr Trump of touching her "private parts in an act that constiuted attempted rape" at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida. She dropped the suit in 1997 after reaching a settlement.

Mr Trump called her claims "nonsense" in a Boston Globe interview in March.

For their part, the Trump Organisation maintained that they do not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace.

“We promptly investigate any claims and discipline upon substantiation of those claims,” said Ms Martin, “and have an open door policy to encourage reporting of any discrimination."

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