Sexual harassment allegations at the Voice of America

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A former Voice of America producer said in a lawsuit that a federal contractor “made taunting, gross sexual comments” to her during a cigarette break, “telling her that she is the type of woman who likes to be tied up and have ‘rough sex’ while moving his hands over his crotch area to show he was getting sexually excited.”
Sara Valinejad Lejuez said she was “obviously repulsed by this egregious, unwelcome behavior” and immediately walked away.
The lawsuit identified the contractor as Babak Alipour-Kargar, who “had developed a widespread reputation within VOA Persian Service for engaging in sexually inappropriate, aggressive conduct toward women.”
Lejuez said when she worked on a project with Alipour-Kargar he complained that she had been too demanding. Or, as he put it, she had put her “finger in his a–hole…a repulsively crude and obscene phrase that has especially vile connotations when said to women in the Persian culture.”
The lawsuit stated:

The next day, March 17, 2015, Ms. Lejuez was sitting at a table with Mr. Alipour-Kargar when he reached down and unzipped the side of one of her boots. He then began suggestively stroking her calf while trying to remove her boot. Shocked, Ms. Lejuez had to force him to stop by physically removing his hand from her leg.
The following day, March 18, 2015, Mr. Alipour-Kargar was watching a woman on a Spanish language television show. In Ms. Lejuez’s presence, he began to discuss the attractiveness of the woman, leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed and proceeded to recount with sexual noises the lewd sexual acts he would like to perform with her. Then he stated directly to Ms. Lejuez that if they were not both already married, he would “f–k’ Ms. Lejuez “so good” that the stars would “scream” in pleasure.
By that point, his harassment and egregious behavior – and management’s failure to protect her – became too much for her to withstand. Ms. Lejuez began to cry and shake with rage, screaming that she could no longer work with Mr. Alipour-Kargar. Mr. Alipour-Kargar’s response was to scream obscenities back at her.

Lejuez filed the lawsuit against the Broadcasting Board of Governors, now called the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees the Voice of America. The BBG responded:

Defendant admits that at one point Mr. Alipour-Kargar did make a comment to Plaintiff in Farsi about “finger in his a–hole” and that Mr. Manzarpour who overheard the comment told him to apologize. Defendant lacks sufficient information to either admit or deny the exact phrasing and context of the aforementioned comment. Moreover, Defendant denies Plaintiff’s overall characterization of the comment and the context surrounding it.

A settlement conference in the case is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 29 before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in Washington, D.C.

Federal contract records show that the BBG identified Alipour-Kargar as a producer, writer, researcher and reporter. The agency paid him $337,667.81 for video recording and other professional services from Nov. 7, 2005, to Aug. 28, 2015, records show.

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