The district attorney for Catawba County is facing a civil lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and defamation.
Whitney Nicole Shaffer alleges that her boss, James C. Gaither made unwanted advances and harassed her while she was employed as an Assistant District Attorney serving Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties.
Gaither has responded to the allegations by issuing a statement that read in part:
“While I am human and I make mistakes, I own up to the mistakes I make. This is not one of those occasions. Her claim of sexual harassment is unfounded and false...”
Read his full statement here.
What the complaint says:
According to court documents, Shaffer worked out of the Hickory office and it was at that location where Gaither would make unannounced visits and engage in inappropriate conversations.
The complaint details a number of conversations between Gaither and Shaffer. Shaffer alleges that he tried to control her behavior outside of work and regularly insinuated that he was “a very powerful man and was not afraid to use his power in favor of those who supported him and against those that crossed him.”
In the complaint, Shaffer said Gaither asked her for her phone number and she gave it to him, believing it would be used for work-related communication. Instead, she complains that he would call and text her with inappropriate comments. You can read the full text messages here.
One particular evening, April 25, 2013, Gaither allegedly asked Shaffer to dinner so they could talk without being overheard. Shaffer said she felt that her job was in jeopardy if she did not agree to go.
According to the complaint, the defendant “forcefully insisted that she drive with him,” made advances during the dinner, and afterwards refused to take her back to her car. The document details him drinking and driving, and attempting to kiss her and “force her to touch him.”
A string of saved text messages also detail Gaither’s advances. For example, on April 28, Gaither texted Shaffer the following: “If you feel like decompressing I can get us a fire going this afternoon…Just let me know. Monday is always such a mess” and “Wrapping up at ymca you have the time n inclination?”
Later that day, the two spoke on the phone and Gaither allegedly told Shaffer he had accidentally sent a message intended for her to another ADA. That text read: “Nikki I definitely do not mind being ignored, but in the context of the immediate past I would certainly like to have a brief explanation...thx.”
After the phone conversation, court documents say that text conversations continued. At one point Gaither allegedly sent a text that alluded to the assault on April 25. That text read “I’ve laid hands on you and love the feel of your body… I’m distracted at this point…”
Documents suggest that text messages were sent through the beginning of May. On May 5, Shaffer resigned her position. She alleges that Gaither then proceeded to tell others that he fired her for misconduct.
Shaffer is seeking a jury trial and damages.