SANTA FE, N.M. — A married couple employed by the operators of Los Alamos National Laboratory are suing the lab and its former Emergency Operations division leader over what their suit alleges was long-running sexual harassment by a LANL supervisor.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Erika and William Gorman in District Court in Santa Fe, alleges that Anthony Stanford committed assault and battery against Erika Gorman.
It also charges that Los Alamos National Security, which operates the lab, was negligent in hiring, supervising and retaining Stanford, who retired from the lab after nearly 20 years as a lab employee in February.
The lawsuit seeking damages states that amid the allegations against Stanford, the lab gave him a choice to either retire with full benefits or be terminated. “That’s one of the concerns we have – that the lab essentially rewarded him for his behavior,” said John Day, the Santa Fe attorney representing the Gormans.
Day said another concern is the message the lab’s alleged inaction in dealing with Erika Gorman’s complaints about Stanford’s advances sends to other women at the lab. “The message is you need to toughen up and stop complaining, which is a despicable attitude to take,” Day said.
The suit was filed the day after criminal charges against Stanford dating from February based on the same allegations were dismissed in Los Alamos Magistrate Court “without prejudice,” meaning prosecutors retain the option to refile.
Stanford and Aaron Boland, the attorney representing Stanford in the criminal case, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Stanford had pleaded not guilty to two charges of battery and two charges of assault.
Day said that criminal case was dismissed because prosecutors agreed the Gormans might be more successful if the charges were brought as a civil case.
A LANL spokesman declined comment.
Husband also at lab
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Erika Gorman was an emergency planning and preparedness specialist and she and her husband, who works in the same department, came under Stanford’s supervision when he was transferred to the lab’s Chemical Metallurgy Research department.
Within two weeks of Stanford’s transfer during the summer of 2012, he allegedly approached Erika Gorman in the parking lot, told her he found her attractive and that if she was not married he would “pursue her hard.”
During another encounter about a week later, the suit says, Stanford told her he found her to be sexually desirable and that he was having difficulty concentrating on work.
Despite her telling him that she was happily married and not interested in a romantic relationship, Stanford allegedly became more persistent and comments he made toward her became more graphic and vulgar. He allegedly told a group of men at a LANL Christmas party that she was a $500-per-night prostitute, the suit says.
The lawsuit also maintains that Stanford implied to her that if she had sex with him he could arrange for her to receive a promotion and that otherwise he might have to transfer her to a different department because he was having trouble controlling his sexual urges for her.
The lawsuit alleges that Stanford propositioned her for sex on a daily basis, offered her expensive gifts in exchange for sex and occasionally touched her thigh and other parts of her body, which she repelled.
During one alleged incident that occurred in an elevator, Stanford tried to kiss her, but she yelled and pushed him away. “You can’t blame a guy for trying,” he reportedly said.
The lawsuit also claims that Stanford would at times grab Gorman in an embrace and “push his groin against her in a sexually aggressive and suggestive manner.”
“Ms. Gorman felt threatened and intimidated by Stanford’s relentless, unwanted and egregious pursuit of a sexual encounter with her, and she believed that she would lose her job with LANS if she refused to have a sexual relationship with Stanford,” the lawsuit states.
Fearing for her and her husband’s jobs, Gorman reported Stanford’s behavior to Charles Anderson, associate director for nuclear and high hazard operations at LANL, but “Anderson did nothing to stop Stanford from harassing Ms. Gorman,” the lawsuit states.
In December 2012, the lawsuit says, Stanford presented Erika Gorman with two watches as Christmas gifts. He then told her that the least she could do was give him a hug or kiss and proceeded to physically pin her against the wall of his office. She escaped and ran out of the office, and the next day she reported the incident to Anderson.
The day after that, Anderson called the Gormans into his office and apologized for not having done anything about Erika Gorman’s allegations earlier, the suit states. He told them that he had self-reported his prior knowledge of the complaints to human resources officials and that he was recusing himself from further involvement.
Erika Gorman then reported Stanford’s behavior to the human resources department and a month later reported it to Los Alamos police, which brought criminal charges against Stanford in Magistrate Court.
A few weeks later, she was granted a temporary restraining order against Stanford.
“The restraining order was issued by a First Judicial District Court judge after a lengthy hearing in which Stanford took the witness stand and testified and repeatedly confessed, under oath, to his conduct and actions against Ms. Gorman,” the lawsuit states.
The day after the retraining order was granted, LANL offered Stanford the option to retire with benefits or be terminated, according to the suit.