A North Miami city administrator says she was fired this week after filing a lawsuit alleging Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime sexually harassed her for months and “held her prisoner” in a car while trying “to have sex with her.”
Lawyers for Janice Antoine said her contract was terminated in retaliation for the federal lawsuit against the councilman and the city for gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.
The lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court, seeks at least $5 million in damages from the city and Bien-Aime each. Her job as an administrative coordinator with the information technology department now ends Sept. 30, according to her lawyers.
“Janice’s case is a horrific example of how sexual harassment and mistreatment of female employees continues to be a serious problem at every level of government,” lawyers Michael Pizzi and Douglas Jeffrey said in a statement. “Janice is seeking justice so that other female employees throughout our county, state and nation do not have to live in fear of being preyed upon.”
Bien-Aime, who is running for North Miami mayor in 2019, insisted he did nothing wrong.
“The allegations made against me are fabricated and untrue,” he told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “The rule of the law is on my side and the truth will come out.”
He added: “The person in question never worked for me, and has never been under my supervision.”
Antoine filed her first version of the lawsuit in July, as first reported by the Miami New Times. Last week, Antoine’s legal team filed an updated complaint, detailing what she claims was the city’s concerted efforts to retaliate against her.
A North Miami spokeswoman said the administration cannot comment on pending litigation.
Despite the allegations of sexual assault, Antoine has not requested a police investigation. Her lawyer said it is “not uncommon” for women to be afraid of reporting sexual assaults. “Especially when they’re dealing with people in the position of authority in the city,” Pizzi said.
According to the suit, North Miami hired Antoine in 2016 as a part-time contract assistant for city council members.
She claimed that her mistreatment began when Councilman Alix Desulme “ordered her to spend her time running personal errands for him that male employees of the city were not asked to perform.”
Antoine claims the man who targeted her was Bien-Aime, a married father of three first elected in 2013.
According to her lawsuit, Bien-Aime constantly pressed her to have sex while “dangling an offer of a full-time position at the city.” The behavior culminated in the fall of 2016, when Bien-Aime ”ordered” Antoine to give him a ride to Doral to drop off a check to the county elections department, the suit said.
Parking in an isolated warehouse district, Bien-Aime complimented her scent, said he wanted to have sex with her and “touched her lap, and repeatedly tried to touch other body parts against her will,” the lawsuit said. He eventually stopped when “it became clear she would not give in,” according to the suit.
Among the other allegations: Bien-Aime bombarded her with daily phone calls and demanded sex when he appeared to be drunk at a city Mardi Gras event. She also said the city reneged on an offer of full-time employment with the IT department and was discriminated against because of “her refusal to surrender to quid pro quo requests for sex.”
No trial date has been set before U.S. Judge Ursula Ungaro.