LAFAYETTE, La.– The head public defender for the 15th Judicial District Indigent Defender’s Office in Lafayette, Louisiana was facing a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.
She said her boss fired her from the public defender’s office after she reported his inappropriate comments to human resources.
Jami Pellerin said her boss, G. Paul Marx, repeatedly made sexual and sexist comments to her while she was an assistant public defender.
She says Marx repeatedly asked her about her sex life and even told her her clothes were creating a problem at the parish jail, causing inmates to masturbate while she was around.
Pellerin reported the gender discrimination and harassment up the chain-of-command and believes her boss retaliated against her by firing her.
“The outcome should have never happened. If folks have complaints of discrimination, they are free in this country to be not retaliated against, and in Mrs. Pellerin’s circumstance, she contends that’s exactly what happened to her,” Pellerin’s attorney, Jill Craft said.
Pellerin said Marx fired her because she reported him for gender discrimination.
She said in one incident, Marx told her to dress “less attractive” and more “like a nun”.
“For her, it was intensely personal. There were not only comments about her personally, about the way she dressed, her marriage, whether she was going to get pregnant or not, things that no employer has any business asking about, and from her perspective, even though she complained about it, she reported it to whoever she could think of. Even though she tried to get the behavior to stop, it just never did, and then ultimately, it led to her termination from her employment,” Craft added.
Pellerin said when she voiced her concerns, Marx said, “I can fire you for being too attractive, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“You have so much faith in the system, especially as lawyers. I mean it’s engrained in us that the system is there to protect people, the laws mean something. The judicial system is there as a protection against folks who have more power than you do,” Craft said.
According to court documents, Marx told Pellerin, “Men don’t have self control. As their attorney and an employee of the public defender, you have to protect these men from their basic instinct by being less attractive.”
Pellerin said she was fired shortly after and believes it was retaliation for speaking up about his gender discrimination.
Marx said she was fired because she missed training exercises.
“I think that this lawsuit highlights the fact that nobody is above the law and that anti-discrimination laws are applied across the board,” Craft told News Ten.
She said the laws must even be applied to the chief district defender.
“I think what Jami really desires is that folks know what happened, that she’d be able to tell her story, and that in some small measure, she’s able to pave the way and demonstrate to other people that they to can stand up, and they too can fight for their rights,” Craft noted.
News Ten contacted Marx about the lawsuit.
He declined to do an interview on camera but did tell us that this matter is now in court and that Pellerin’s attorney is trying to influence potential jurors.
“Pellerin’s allegations will be aggressively challenged in a court of law,” Marx added.
News Ten will continue to follow this case in court.