Former Roanoke Times employee files federal lawsuit against newspaper's parent companies

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) — A former employee of The Roanoke Times has filed a federal lawsuit, accusing the newspaper's parent companies of allowing sexual harassment to take place within the organization, discriminating against her on the basis of her sex and retaliating against her for bringing accusations of sexual harassment to light.

Attorneys for Candace Lucas filed a 12-page complaint in U.S. District Court February 17. The suit names The Roanoke Times' owners BH Media Group, Inc. and Lee Enterprises, Inc. as defendants and demands a jury trial to resolve the complaint.

Lucas, according to the complaint, was employed by The Roanoke Times as a Human Resources Generalist/Coordinator from January, 2016 until February, 2019. In her lawsuit, Lucas accuses the newspaper of terminating her, after trying to address a report of sexual harassment against a male employee of the organization.

Lucas, according to the complaint, was harassed by the male employee on multiple occasions. When a female employee approached Lucas in her human resources capacity to report sexual harassment against the same male employee, the complaint said Lucas notified her supervisor and scheduled a meeting with the male employee.

In her complaint, Lucas said the male employee did not respond during the meeting, but came to her office thirty minutes later to dispute the claims and seek guidance on how to "manage" the female employee who was lodging allegations against him.

When the newspaper's publisher was made aware of the situation, Lucas alleges in her complaint that the male employee was described as being "just a 'jokester.'"

Despite being told by her supervisor that she handled the situation appropriately, Lucas said in her complaint that she was terminated roughly one week later after someone raised concerns about her relationship with an employee of The Roanoke Times' news department. Lucas said in her complaint that upper management of the newspaper had been aware of the relationship for nearly a year and no previous issues had been raised. Her male partner was not terminated at the time of her firing, the complaint alleges.

Lucas said in her lawsuit that she filed an additional complaint of sexual harassment through a company hotline after her termination. While following up on her allegations, Lucas said in her complaint that attorneys for the newspaper seemed more interested in her relationship with the male employee than her own concerns regarding sexual harassment.

Lucas said in her complaint that she filed a Notice of Right to Sue with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November, 2019. At that point the male newsroom employee she had been dating was fired, the complaint alleges.

BH Media Group, Inc. and Lee Enterprises, Inc. have not yet filed a formal response to Lucas' complaint in federal court. WDBJ7 has reached out to the companies regarding the lawsuit and is awaiting a response.

A copy of Lucas' complaint, redacted to remove individual names of those connected to the case who are not parties to the lawsuit, is attached to this article.

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