Ex-USAF officer sues consulting firm over alleged sexual harassment – The Washington Post | Region & Cash

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This story has been updated.

A retired US Air Force officer who worked at a consulting firm with more than $100 million in federal government contracts has filed a lawsuit, alleging in court documents and an interview that his boss abused him while he was serving clients in… nightclubs in the district.

Kyle Reinhardt, who retired as a lieutenant colonel, accused Kim Cirka, a partner at Guidehouse, of presiding over “a free-ranging sex culture” at the company, the complaint said. His lawsuit also offers a glimpse of how federal consultants and other contractors are courting government officials in hopes of getting a piece of Uncle Sam’s business.

The brief – filed Feb. 2 in DC Superior Court – alleges Cirka regularly molested him, molested his girlfriends, flirted and engaged in other undesirable sexual conduct during social gatherings. During a night of heavy drinking, the lawsuit says, he was sexually assaulted by his boss.

Whenever Reinhardt complained to Cirka about improper behavior, she brushed him off and made it clear that Reinhardt had to “play the game” if he wanted to keep his job and advance at the company, the lawsuit states.

After Reinhardt helped the company win a $110 million contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs, his importance to them diminished, Reinhardt said. At this point, she is also supposed to take revenge on him for rejecting her advances. His lawsuit states that she marginalized him, blocked his promotion to partner, and eventually pushed him out.

After his termination, Guidehouse — which was part of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ public sector when Reinhardt was hired — refused to pay any contractual severance pay, the complaint says.

Cirka denied any allegations of wrongdoing. She said in a statement issued by her attorney, Charles B. Molster III, that it was Reinhardt a “disgruntled ex-employee who was fired over performance issues and is now trying to run a smear campaign.”

“MS. Cirka looks forward to clearing her good name when the real facts come out,” said Molster.

“The allegations in the complaint filed two months ago were made after Mr. Reinhardt’s employment was terminated for legitimate performance reasons,” Kelly Langmesser, a spokeswoman for Guidehouse, said in an email, adding that “an investigation into the other allegations made by Mr. Reinhardt in connection with alleged harassment from a few years ago.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers, now known as PwC, declined to comment, spokeswoman Ellen Burr said.

Reinhardt said he felt trapped, embarrassed, and yet couldn’t do anything about repeated insults by Cirka because he feared a complaint could cost him his job.

“It was now like part of several things that I parked in a locked box in my soul,” said Reinhardt in an interview. “I felt really terrible. I also felt that the work I’m very passionate about was in a very precarious place and it was an inner balance not to blast what I needed to have to be able to do this work.

The defendants filed motions to stay the trial on April 1, forcing Reinhardt to submit to arbitration.

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The lawsuit represents a rare reversal of gender roles in sexual harassment cases. Men make up only about 3 percent of sexual harassment victims who seek help from Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, said Emily Martin, vice president of education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center . But they are identified as harassers 91 percent of the time.

According to the US Commission on Civil Rights’ report “Federal #MeToo: Examining Sexual Harassment in Government Workplaces,” an estimated one in seven federal employees experienced sexual harassment between 2016 and 2018. The report examines the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s efforts to tackle sexual harassment and cites critics who say the country’s estimated 4.1 million contractors may not enjoy the same protections as federal employees when it comes to addressing discrimination in the workplace, such as sexual harassment.

However, Martin also said that employees at private companies who work for the federal government may have more protections compared to other private companies, including additional regulatory oversight from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

She reported sexual harassment by her manager to a federal contractor – and was fired shortly thereafter

Reinhardt, who studied architecture at Yale and health and urban planning at Harvard, was a senior policy adviser to the assistant secretary of defense on health affairs, according to his complaint and an interview. After retiring from military service in 2012, he joined the Public Sector Unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers, later spun off as Guidehouse, Inc. Washington Technology magazine said at the time that Guidehouse had sales of $509 million and employed about 1,500 people.

At least once a month, Guidehouse hosted social events at DC locations like Bistrot Lepic, Martin’s Tavern, the St. Regis Hotel and A Rake’s Progress at the Line Hotel. Drinks went on the company’s account, with Circa often springing up for Château Haut-Brion and other wines that went for over $200 a bottle, Reinhardt said. The celebrations sometimes continued with after-parties at Reinhardt’s apartment.

“Guidehouse had a work-hard-play-hard culture,” the complaint reads. “As a government contractor, his business was based on building and developing good relationships with both government and potential team partners – other government contractors who could act as subcontractors for Guidehouse or vice versa. Those relationships were lubricated by food and alcohol.”

In unsparing and occasionally lurid details, the complaint identifies nearly a dozen people who allegedly attended Guidehouse soirees and allegedly witnessed or participated in sexually inappropriate behavior by Cirka, including Cirka’s twin sister Kari; the former spouse of a NASA astronaut; and various federal officials. The complaint also alleges that Cirka’s former deputy, Paul Bradley, was romantically involved with his boss and inappropriately touched him one of Reinhardt’s former girlfriends after a night of drinking.

Bradley, now chief technology officer at another company, referred questions to attorney Paul Y. Kiyonaga, who called Reinhardt’s allegations “false, irresponsible and lewd.” Several other witnesses named in the ad, including Cirka’s twin sister Kari and Reinhardt’s two former girlfriends, either did not respond to emails and phone calls or declined to comment.

Reinhardt’s complaint also states that Cirka encouraged him to give “male attention” to Melissa Glynn, a former assistant secretary for corporate integration at VA, and to be receptive to all sorts of sexual advances from her in hopes of securing a VA contract to win. Glynn, who is now a director at EY-Parthenon, did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Three witnesses identified in the lawsuit said in interviews that they recalled attending social events at the Guidehouse with Cirka and Reinhardt, but only one said he had observed inappropriate sexual behavior.

“I’m aware of the night he’s talking about, but I have not witnessed any such behavior,” said Summer Worden, a former Air Force intelligence officer and former wife of astronaut Anne McClain, who attended a dinner with Cirka, Reinhardt and others attended April 2016.

D. Scott Guermonprez, former director of Northport VA Medical Center on Long Island, recalled that when Guermonprez came to Buck’s Fishing and Camping with Reinhardt’s girlfriend in June 2017, Cirka’s behavior towards Reinhardt seemed excessive.

“I seemed surprised at the time by the overly flirtatious way his boss was acting — that she drank quite a bit and seemed kind of fixated on Kyle,” Guermonprez said in an interview.

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Against the backdrop of the alleged abuse, Reinhardt’s team pursued multimillion-dollar federal contracts under the stress of a high-stakes and ambitious job. The complaint said he received excellent performance reviews, including the coveted “conquered” rating. His annual salary was $325,000, his attorney said.

But as Reinhardt’s reputation waned, he was banned from important meetings and sent out on the streets for grueling 12-hour days and awkward nights in “cheap-rent motels” (including one with “bloodstains on the furniture”), his says Complaint. Two months after being placed on a performance improvement plan, Reinhardt was terminated in September 2021.

“I’ve never experienced a work environment like this,” said Samuel J. Buffone Jr., an attorney for Reinhardt. “The world of public procurement can often have colorful jobs, but what we see here in the actions is really beyond the pale.”

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, is before DC Superior Court Judge Maurice A. Ross.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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