June 18, 2011 11:28:00 PM
A former employee of a Jackson mega church has filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the church and its former pastor.
The lawsuit was filed by 27-year-old Jamila Slaughter on Friday in U.S. District Court in Jackson. It claims Kevin Wright made unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances toward her for 10 months when she worked as a receptionist/administrative assistant for the Word of Faith Christian Center.
The Clarion-Ledger reports that Wright was dismissed as Word of Faith pastor last year, in part due to alleged financial mismanagement and a "moral failure." He couldn''t immediately be reached for comment.
Andre Simpson, spokesman for Word of Faith International Christian Center in metro Detroit, said the headquarters church couldn''t comment about the lawsuit. The Jackson church is one of about 30 satellite churches of Word of Faith International.
The suit doesn''t specify damages sought, but asks a jury to determine compensatory and punitive damages.
"As a minister he had a duty to protect her, but instead of praying for her, he preyed upon her," said Lisa Ross, one of Slaughter''s attorneys. "We want a jury to hold him accountable for his outrageous conduct."
Alleged financial mismanagement at Word of Faith under Wright''s leadership was a factor that led to his ouster. But before he left the church, in early 2010, Wright, a married father of five, acknowledged he was dealing with an undisclosed "moral issue."
In a news release issued in September, Word of Faith International said it was informed earlier that year of an alleged impropriety in the Jackson church and an investigation was launched that lasted several months.
"At its conclusion, it became necessary for Bishop Kevin Wright to be replaced as senior pastor of the Jackson church due to his moral failure," the statement said.
Slaughter''s lawsuit says Wright admitted in a meeting that included her, her mother and his wife, Leslie Wright, who was co-pastor, that he made unwanted sexual advances, but said he had learned his lesson. However, Slaughter said Wright continued to make sexual advances toward her.
"When Slaughter saw that Bishop Wright did not understand the meaning of ''no,'' and that church officials were not able to put an end to Bishop Wright''s unlawful conduct, she decided to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," her lawsuit says.
In March this year, the Jackson office of EEOC sent a determination letter that said evidence supports Slaughter''s allegation that she was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment.
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