News and Commentary

Former Florida Democratic Party Chair Sued For Allegedly Sexually Harassing Female Employee

Stephen Bittel, a real-estate billionaire and former head of the Florida Democratic Party, is being sued for allegedly sexually harassing a female employee.

The complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleges that Bittel sexually harassed 34-year-old Andrea Molina by “describing his pornography preferences, offering to take her shopping for lingerie, and touching her toes on his private jet,” the Miami New Times reports.

Molina reportedly worked for Bittel for five years as the director of acquisitions for his real-estate firm, Terranova.

Molina’s lawsuit alleges that upon taking the position, Bittel promised that her new salary of $90,000 would exceed her old job’s salary of $150,000 because of bonuses and even made several comments about her eventually taking over the company. The lawsuit adds that Molina’s contract had odd provisions, including not disclosing her place of employment, remaining on call 24/7, and an 18-month non-compete agreement that she says stopped her from leaving after she felt she was being harassed.

Molina claims that Bittel referred to himself as a “sapiosexual,” talked about “porn stories” he read, and described the pubic hair of the women he had slept with.

Bittel also allegedly made several comments about Molina’s weight during her two pregnancies, including asking her if she would return to her previous size and asking her to take photos of her scale. Molina says she did take a picture of the scale because she was “hoping for some relief from Bittel’s invasive demands.” Bittel, she claims, then framed the picture and put it on her desk, which is in a “highly trafficked area of an open office environment for both Terranova employees and guests to see.”

The Miami New Times also reports:

In summer 2015, Molina says, Bittel invited her to lunch on the pretense of checking out retail real estate in Miami Beach. After a sushi lunch on Lincoln Road, she says, Bittel “announced they would go shopping at Victoria’s Secret.” He refused to take no for an answer and became upset when she would not go into the store with him.

Another time, in 2016, after Bittel and Molina had a business meeting in Philadelphia, he allegedly suggested she take off her shoes to get more comfortable, after which he grabbed her foot and touched her toes before she pulled away.

The lawsuit also alleges that another female employee told Molina that Bittel propositioned her by effectively offering her $5,000 and asking “her price.”

Molina claims she was fired in January of 2018 because Bittel believed she was the anonymous source that accused him of creepy behavior in a Politico story.

Bittel denied the accusations through his spokesperson, who said, “This complaint comes from someone who, by their own admission, has lived beyond their means and been unable to meet their financial obligations. Revisionist history is being used in an attempt to leverage Stephen Bittel for a financial windfall.”

Molina was fired because her “position was eliminated in a company-wide reorganization that resulted in the simultaneous downsizing of nine employees,” the statement claims. “The terms of her contract were clear, particularly to an Ivy League graduate, and she willingly agreed to the employment terms that she now challenges. When put in the correct context and the facts are put on the record, the allegations in this complaint will be shown to be nothing more than sensationalistic and overblown.”

Bittel resigned from his position as the head of the Florida Democratic Party under pressure from high-profile Democrats in 2017 after he was accused by six Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants of making suggestive comments and creating an unprofessional work environment.

“When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside,” Bittel said in a statement at the time. “I am proud of what we have built as a Party and the wins we have had for Florida families, but I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure at the Democratic Party.”