Two credible allegations of sexual assault have been made so far against Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D). Now, even some members of his own party are calling for him to resign. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:
A second woman has come forward and accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault.
An attorney for Meredith Watson issued a statement Friday afternoon saying Watson was raped by Fairfax while the two were students at Duke University. Watson and Fairfax were friends, the statement said, but never dated.
“Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive,” said Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith.
With the accusation, Watson is the second woman this week to accuse Fairfax, who would become governor should embattled Gov. Ralph Northam resign, of sexual assault.
When the first allegation of sexual assault was made against Fairfax, Virginia Democrats, like State Senator David Marsden, had blindly asserted that Fairfax must be innocent and that the allegations against him must be untrue.
But now, they have largely stopped peddling such claims. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) concedes that Fairfax’s accusers, Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, are telling the truth, and that “Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax must resign.”
Even Fairfax’s former political allies have begun calling for his resignation, realizing that his continued presence in office may anger voters. That could cost the Democrats seats in the upcoming 2019 legislative elections, where they had been expected to win control of both houses of the legislature.
State Delegate Lee Carter of Manassas said, “In light of the multiple credible allegations against Lt. Gov. Fairfax, I hereby call for his immediate resignation.”
Fairfax’s refusal to resign creates a potential liability headache for Virginia’s government, and the law firm where Fairfax is a partner, Morrison & Foerster. That firm continues to boast of its association with Fairfax.
That is because the mere presence of a serial rapist in the workplace can create a sexually hostile work environment in violation of federal laws against sexual harassment. That is especially true if women in those workplaces are survivors of severe sexual abuse who will relive their trauma upon being exposed to a sexual predator.
As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit explained in a 2008 decision, “The continued presence of a rapist in the victim’s workplace can render the workplace objectively hostile because the rapist’s presence exacerbates and reinforces the severe fear and anxiety suffered by the victim.” (See Lapka v. Chertoff, 517 F.3d 974, 984 (7th Cir. 2008)).
That is because sexual “harassment does not have to take place within the physical confines of the workplace to be actionable; it need only have consequences in the workplace,” explained the court. (See id. at 983).
Thus, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster would be reckless not to investigate this very serious matter. And Virginia’s government should likewise take it very seriously. Failure to do so would constitute negligence towards sexual harassment.