Bettendorf Mayor Robert S. Gallagher Jr. and his law firm Gallagher, Millage and Gallagher, have been accused of gender discrimination, creating a hostile work environment and retaliation in a lawsuit filed by a former employee.
Gallagher is being sued as a private citizen in his capacity as a senior partner, not as mayor. The suit was filed Oct. 8 in Scott County District Court.
The plaintiff, Raven Hollenhorst, worked for the firm about 10 weeks in 2018. Gallagher berated her almost daily, according to the suit, escalating to an incident in December when he trapped her at her desk and she had to call for another employee. Gallagher denies the accusations.
"We will vigorously defend this lawsuit," he said in an interview. "I don't believe there is merit to her claim."
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Hollenhorst says the mistreatment began almost as soon as she started:
• On October 12, Gallagher yelled at Hollenhorst for not processing a divorce fast enough. "He pointed his finger in her face, shouted, trapped her in the chair, tore pages from the file and threw them at her," according to the lawsuit.
• Five days later on October 17, Hollenhorst alleges Gallagher screamed, hit himself in the head with a file, hit his desk and files and slammed a large file on the desk, at which point Hollenhorst feared she would be hit with the file. The lawsuit says an unnamed employee quit after this incident.
• The third incident, on December 7, saw Gallagher trapping Hollenhorst in her chair and yelling at her, according to the lawsuit. Hollenhorst called for junior partner Peter Geirut, who came into her cube and told Gallagher to leave. Geirut met with Hollenhorst and another employee at his house Dec. 9, where the lawsuit says he told Hollenhorst that Gallagher treated her poorly because she is a woman.
After another incident on December 18, Hollenhorst submitted her two-week notice. "Ms. Hollenhorst told Mr. Geirut she intended to file an EEOC complaint and was walked out the door," the lawsuit says.
Hollenhorst has received a right-to-sue letter from the Civil Rights Commission, a prerequisite to filing discrimination lawsuits in Iowa. Hollenhorst is being represented by the firm O'Brien and Marquard.