Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, resigned as the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Wednesday after a former staffer filed a lawsuit earlier this month claiming she was fired as retaliation for planned legal action related to an alleged 2015 rape by a supervisor.
"We are grateful for Rep. Jackson Lee’s unswerving commitment to the Foundation, and her efforts to help shape and elevate our programming for the last two years as chair, and a number of years as a board member," CBCF interim President and CEO Elsie Scott said in a statement. "The congresswoman values the Foundation’s ideals and does not want to be a distraction during the legal proceedings of the suit filed against the CBCF."
Jackson Lee's office had no immediate comment on her resignation, but previously denied "that it retaliated against, or otherwise improperly treated" the staffer, who is identified in the lawsuit only as "Jane Doe."
Earlier Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Jackson Lee had decided to "voluntarily and temporarily step back" from her post as chairwoman of the panel's crime subcommittee.
"This decision does not suggest any culpability by Rep. Jackson Lee," Nadler said.
The move comes one day after the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence said it could not support making Jackson Lee the lead sponsor of legislation reauthorizing the federal Violence Against Women Act.
"We begin and end all of our work with supporting survivors and support Jane Doe and many others who have been unsupported in their attempts to speak out," the group's statement said.
According to The New York Times, which first reported on Jackson Lee's plans to resign, CBCF board members told Jackson Lee to step down as chairwoman or face a removal vote after the lawsuit became public late last week.
In the suit, Jane Doe alleges she was raped while a CBCF intern by Damien Jones, the foundation's internship program coordinator and her supervisor at the time. Two years later, Doe was hired to work for Jackson Lee, who had recently been made chairwoman of the CBCF's board of directors. Shortly after she was hired, Doe said Jackson Lee received a text message from the CBCF's chief executive at the time, A. Shaunise Washington.
"I just received a notification that you have a new staffer," Washington allegedly messaged Jackson Lee, mentioning Doe's name. "Call me, I have background on her."
Doe says she was fired in March 2018, roughly two weeks after she told Jackson's chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, that she had "recently learned more about her case involving Mr. Jones and CBCF, and planned to move forward with legal action" against the foundation.
The lawsuit says Rushing was initially supportive of Doe and agreed to arrange a meeting between Doe and Jackson Lee to discuss the matter but never did so.
When she was dismissed, Doe claims, Rushing told her she was being let go because of "budgetary issues" and added that as the most recent hire, she'd be the first to go. However, Doe claims, Jackson Lee had hired at least two new employees who made "at least the same salary" as her since her arrival in November 2017. She also claims two more employees were hired shortly after she was fired, while another staffer received a raise.