Woman claims prominent Kentucky businessman fired her for refusing sexual advances

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A Pike County woman is suing Walter May, a prominent Eastern Kentucky businessman and the former mayor of Pikeville, for firing her as his caregiver after she allegedly refused to have sex with him.

In a six-page lawsuit filed June 29 in Fayette Circuit Court, Karen Elliott, 53, a professional caregiver, said May's sexual advances toward her also caused her to suffer emotional distress. She is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

May, who was mayor of Pikeville from 1990 to 1993, could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment.

He was replaced earlier this year as president and chief executive officer of Pikeville Medical Center and is founder of East Kentucky Broadcasting. May's attorney, Richard Plymale of Lexington, said the lawsuit is without merit.

The lawsuit says Elliott worked from Feb. 12 to March 30 this year as a part-time caregiver to May, usually three or four nights a week from about 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. She also worked during this time as a part-time caregiver for another family, for whom she had worked since 2016.

Elliott said May insisted that she leave her other job and work full time for him, which she did.

On March 30 this year, the suit said, Elliott traveled to Lexington with May in his car as his employed caregiver for an overnight trip.

May is in his early 80s, according to the Appalachian News-Express. He did not arrange for her to have her own hotel room and did not reserve a room with two separate beds, the suit said.

Instead, May reserved a room with a single bed, told her he expected her to sleep in the bed with her and "pressured " her to have sex with him, according to the suit.

While in Lexington, May intentionally touched her breasts and tried to put his hand between her legs without her consent, the lawsuit said.

Elliott said she refused May's sexual advances and slept on a couch in the hotel room.

She also said May fondled her on numerous occasions without her consent. "This touching was uninvited, unwanted and offensive" to her, according to the lawsuit.

On more than one occasion, the suit said, May asked Elliott to marry him.

On other occasions, the suit said, May watched pornographic videos in Elliott's presence and insisted that she get in bed and sit next to him.

Elliott said she made known to May at all times that she didn't want to have sex with him, did not want him to touch her, did not want to marry him and that his comments and actions were unprofessional and unwelcome.

The night before Elliott was fired, the suit said, May, who had been drinking, demanded sex from her but she refused.

She was notified April 29 that she was fired for unsatisfactory job performance.

Elliott's attorney, Joe Childers of Lexington, said she decided to file a civil lawsuit against May instead of pursuing criminal charges.

She has "a right to be free from sexually hostile and abusive work environments, and this right is a matter of public policy," the suit said.

The suit said Fayette Circuit Court is a proper venue for the case because "one of the overt acts of wrongdoing" was committed by May in Fayette County.

Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment has been through the courts. But grassroots activism in the 1970s opened the space for a nationwide conversation, and the Civil Right