Two lawsuits accusing an investigator in the state public defender’s office of sexual harassment have been settled.
The Law Offices of the Public Defender agreed to pay $345,000 to resolve the lawsuits filed in 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Neither the office nor the investigator admitted liability as part of the settlements.
The agency has locations around the state. The investigator used to work in the Las Cruces office.
Laura Schauer Ives, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that her clients are hopeful the culture in the public defender’s office will change and others will be spared from similar treatment, including retaliation for reporting harassment.
“They were struggling with a very serious problem with repeat sexual harassment that went unaddressed,” she told the Journal.
Under the settlement, the public defender’s office agreed to follow up on sexual harassment complaints and agreed to certain procedures for interviewing employees in future investigations.
“We area always looking to learn lessons so we can ensure professional and supportive working conditions in our offices,” chief public defender Bennett Baur said.
The investigator who was accused said the public defender’s office decided to settle the cases, and he denied the allegations in the lawsuits, according to a statement from his attorney.
In November, the public defender’s office settled another lawsuit that included claims of sexual harassment and unfair pay. The office paid out $750,000 to resolve it.
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