A 35-year-old former employe of radio station WMAL has filed a multimillion-dollar damage suit here against the station and its executive vice president, Andrew M. Ockershausen, contending that Ockershausen harassed her sexually, disparaged her Mexican-American and Roman Catholic background and falsified her job evaluations, causing her dismissal.
The lawsuit, filed last Monday in D.C. Superior Court by Marie Castro-Arrien of Silver Spring, follows a similar complaint by her against the station before the D.C. Human Rights Office. The office recently found "probable cause" to believe that WMAL violated the city's human rights law in a series of alleged incidents involving Ockershausen.
Ockershausen, a prominent business figure, board member of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and popular speaker on the business luncheon circuit, could not be reached for comment. Stuart M. Gerson; an attorney for WMAL and its parent broadcast firm, ABC, said, "All defendants deny the allegations."
He said the lawsuit "looks to me essentially like the complaint of a disgruntled former employe." He described the allegations as "colorful."
In her suit, Castro-Arrien asserts that while she was an administrative assistant to Ockershausen from December 1979 to her dismissal last October, she was "sexually molested, propositioned, caressed, fondled, pinched, insulted, humiliated, ridiculed, harassed, embarrassed, intimidated, slandered, defamed and degraded by Ockershausen with the cooperation, knowledge and assent" of WMAL and ABC.
She says in the suit that Ockershausen repeatedly called her a "spic" and "dumb Mexican," berated her for attending special church services during the week, suggesting that going on Sunday was enough, and falsified negative job evaluations on her after she repulsed his sexual advances.
The suit, prepared by attorneys Eduardo Pena Jr., Hubert M. Schlosberg and Robert A. Philipson, asks for $10 million against WMAL and ABC.
The D.C. Human Rights Office ruling, issued May 4, resulted from a series of closed hearings at which Castro-Arrien made her allegations and WMAL representatives countered that she was fired legitimately for unsatisfactory job performance. The human rights office ruled in favor of Castro-Arrien.
The next step would have been for the office to initiate conciliation procedures between the two sides. But attorneys for Castro-Arrien withdrew the human rights complaint as a tactical matter to file this week's lawsuit in Superior Court. This was necessary because a grievance cannot be pursued through administrative channels, such as the human rights office, at the same time that it is pursued through the courts.
Castro-Arien, who is married and the mother of a 15-year-old daughter, now works for a consulting firm in Bethesda.