Chicago, IL – Former Judge, Rafael Ovalles has issued his letter of resignation, effective October 31, amidst claims of sexual harassment while on the job. A litany of former court clerks, attorneys and investigators testified at Ovalles’ hearing in front of the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline. After over 60 witnesses testified, the Commission recommended that Ovalles be removed from the bench.
The Commission concluded that Ovalles had committed 41 violations of the Rhode Island Code of Judicial Conduct. The 14-member panel – composed of lawyers and Judges- listened to weeks of testimony about Ovalles’ persistent mistreatment of those who appeared before him, specifically, the sexual degradation of female staff members and lawyers. In their recommendation, the Commission noted that Judges should aim to fairly administer justice and further admonished Ovalles for is a failure to administer justice through a lack of competence and behavioral misconduct.
According to testimony, Ovalles made many court clerks feel uncomfortable. He would often be caught staring the clerks up and down in a sexually suggestive manner. Many Clerks testified that they felt uncomfortable when Ovalles would summon them to their chambers alone, often having others accompany them.
For example, Megan Degnan clerked for Ovalles around a dozen times while he was on the bench. On one occasion, Degnan was called into Ovalles chambers and she felt uncomfortable so she requested a Sheriff accompany her while she was in the room alone with Ovalles. When Degnan asked if she could come into Ovalles’ chambers, he replied “you can come in and watch me suck on my lollipop,” Which Degnan understood as sexually suggestive.
Ovalles was not oblivious to his reputation and views of him. When Clerk Cote escorted Degnan to Ovalles’ chambers, Cote decided to stand inside the chambers by the wall. When Ovalles notices Cotes standing in the corner, he verbally admonished and degraded her, demanding sheto leave his office.
Sometimes, those tasked with administering the law are its biggest perpetrators. Ovalles conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under Title VII, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee on the basis of their sex or the basis of their gender.
Under Title VII, sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination. Specifically, Ovalles created a hostile work environment for his female employees with his creepy gaze and general hostile disposition towards females.
Normally, when an individual violates a provision of Title VII, an employee must first file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC is the administrative agency tasked with handling claims of employment discrimination. Once an employee makes a claim the EEOC will either pick up the case and take it through mediation, issue the employee a right to sue letter, or issue a determination of no probable cause.
The sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years of experience litigating claims of employment discrimination and sexual harassment. Working closely with our Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys, we have received six figure verdicts on behalf of clients who were survivors of sexual harassment, please give our talented attorneys a call at (800) 807-2209. for your free consultation.
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