A federal judge has scheduled arguments Nov. 8 on a request by the Florida Senate to shield it from a discrimination case filed by a legislative aide who alleges she was a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle will hear arguments on a Senate request for a preliminary injunction in the case involving aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January.
Lawyers for the Senate are seeking the injunction to block an administrative judge from requiring the Senate’s participation in the EEOC case.
The Senate contends, in part, that it is protected by the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity.
“As part of the state of Florida’s legislative branch, the Florida Senate enjoys immunity from suit by Florida citizens unless it waives immunity or Congress validly abrogates it,” Senate attorneys argued in a motion filed Oct. 10. “Neither exception applies here.”
Perrin Rogers was at the center of a sexual-harassment investigation late last year that led to the resignation of powerful Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater. Perrin Rogers alleged that Latvala harassed her, triggering the Senate to appoint a special master to investigate the accusations.
The special master, former appellate Judge Ronald Swanson, found probable cause to support Perrin Rogers’ allegations — though Latvala has steadfastly denied them. Perrin Rogers, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, subsequently filed the EEOC complaint against the Senate, alleging in part that she faced retaliation.