Library Wins Sexual Discrimination Suit

Posted November 26, 2003 at 1:56pm

Following two days of deliberation over sexual discrimination allegations, a federal jury ruled in favor of the Library of Congress last week, bringing to a close a three-year-long lawsuit.

“Once the jury had the opportunity to review all of the evidence it’s clear that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Library of Congress,” LOC spokeswoman Helen Dalrymple said Tuesday.

The plaintiff, Reference Librarian Joan Higbee, had filed suit in December 2000 alleging disparate treatment on the basis of sex under her former supervisor, Larry Sullivan, who served as chief of the Library’s rare book and special collections division until 1998.

Higbee’s attorney, David Shapiro, declined to comment on the case, in which his client had sought monetary compensation and a retroactive promotion.

In closing arguments before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola in late November, Pamela Huff, a U.S. attorney representing the Library, asserted that many of Higbee’s allegations did not qualify under Title XII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination.

“Look at what her complaints actually are and think if any of them meet a standard like this,” Huff told the jury, composed of eight women and four men.

In her lawsuit, Higbee had asserted that Sullivan “virtually ignored” her, shunning her both personally and professionally after she located missing material on magician Harry Houdini in a Library of Congress warehouse in Landover, Md.