Outgoing DA seeks dismissal of harassment, defamation lawsuit

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


A North Carolina District Attorney has moved to dismiss claims of sexual harassment and defamation brought by a former employee. The employee, Whitney Nicole Shaffer, worked for District Attorney James C. Gaither for a four-month period in 2013.

Message Bubble Charlotte Injury Lawyer North Carolina Lawsuit AttorneyGaither is the outgoing district attorney for North Carolina’s 25th judicial district, which encompasses all of Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties. He lost a July runoff election to challenger David Learner, who will take over Gaither’s office next year.

People Icons Charlotte Car Accident Attorney North Carolina Motorcycle Crash LawyerShaffer sued Gaither in June in federal court alleging that the district attorney used his position to intimidate and make unwanted sexual advances toward her. Shaffer resigned her position, but she said Gaither told other attorneys and at least one judge that he fired her. This, Shaffer said, damaged her reputation in the legal community.

In August, the North Carolina Attorney General—which represents Gaither—filed a motion to dismiss Shaffer’s lawsuit. The Attorney General represents Gaither in his capacity as district attorney. Since Shaffer also sued Gaither personally, Gaither hired his own attorney. That attorney—Renee Hughes—filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss Shaffer’s claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That Act, Hughes argued, does not impose liability upon individuals.

Hughes also asked the court to dismiss the defamation claims Shaffer brought against Gaither because they were not pled with adequate specificity. Shaffer “did not cite specific injurious statements” which a court could interpret as defamatory, Hughes’ motion alleged. Hughes also alleged that Shaffer failed to allege that she was damaged—monetarily—by Gaither’s alleged defamatory statement, something she was required to do pursuant to North Carolina defamation law.

Shaffer attached to her lawsuit some 35 pages of text messages she alleged Gaither sent to her. In its motion to dismiss, the State of North Carolina argued that Gaither was acting solely in his individual capacity when he sent the texts, and most of them did not relate to his position as district attorney.

The messages show that Shaffer and Gaither “had a mutual personal relationship in addition to a work relationship,” according to the State’s motion. The State argued that Shaffer could not argue on the one hand that Gaither acted out of a desire “to fulfill his personal sexual needs” and on the other hand argue that the State was liable for Gaither’s actions because they were performed in the course of his official duties as the elected district attorney.

The State also pointed out that Shaffer’s “sexually charged responses” showed she was open to Gaither’s advances “and even welcomed the advances.” Because of that, the State argued, she should not be able to claim that she was sexually harassed by Gaither.

Aside from the motions, Gaither has publically denied Shaffer’s allegations.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAW Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.










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