Head of Iowa FFA Foundation sued for sexual harassment

By: - August 1, 2022 4:06 pm

The Iowa Future Farmers of America Foundation is being sued by a former employee for sexual harassment. (Photo by Getty Images)

The head of the foundation that supports that Iowa Future Farmers of America is being sued by a former employee for sexual harassment.

Emily Niemeyer of Polk County, a former administrative assistant for the Iowa FFA Foundation, is suing the foundation as well as Joshua Remington, the foundation’s executive director, and the foundation’s communications manager, Bryon Weesner.

Niemeyer’s lawsuit states she was hired by the foundation in February 2020, and reported directly to Remington. Throughout her employment at the foundation, Niemeyer claims, Remington made sexually harassing comments to her, such as telling her he “didn’t get laid” on his wedding night because his wife was so drunk, and telling her about a female classmate from his college days who “wore low cut tops” to curry favor with a professor.

Remington is also alleged to have made derogatory and misogynistic comments about women, in part by referring to a new female board member as an entitled “trophy wife.”

The lawsuit also alleges Weesner made sexually harassing comments to Niemeyer, telling her that a white T-shirt she was wearing would “look better wet,” and bragging about his previous employer having to pay a large settlement to a coworker who brought a sexual harassment claim against him.

Remington and Niemeyer had regular one-on-one meetings to discuss ongoing and upcoming projects, during which Niemeyer would make suggestions that Remington adopt and present to other Iowa FFA members as his own ideas, taking full credit for them, the lawsuit claims.

He also repeatedly asked Niemeyer to help with his and Weesner’s social-media duties, stating that it was foolish for the foundation to pay himself or Weesner $5 for something Niemeyer could do for $1.

In June 2020, after Remington learned Niemeyer and her husband were trying to start a family, Remington allegedly told her, “It would be an inconvenience if you were pregnant at this time since it will impact our workflow for the foundation. If you were not here, it would require me to find someone to replace you.”

That same month, in anticipation of a large group event at Iowa FFA, Niemeyer told Remington her doctor suggested she avoid large-group events given the COVID-19 pandemic, but would work from home as other employees were allowed to do. When she returned to work after the event, Remington allegedly informed her that he considered her a “no show” for the event. She was later placed on a performance improvement plan and was issued a written warning for “failure to meet work standards” and “insubordination or refusal to comply with instructions.”

She later complained to Iowa FFA Executive Committee member Ron Zelle of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. After learning of Niemeyer’s complaints, Remington “completely ostracized her by cutting off all lines of communication,” the lawsuit alleges. The Iowa FFA board of directors later concluded that Niemeyer’s complaints were without merit, and it upheld a previous decision denying her request that she be allowed to record her one-on-one meetings with Remington.

In December 2020, Niemeyer allegedly overheard Remington make multiple comments about her during a phone conversation in which he described her as “a lawsuit waiting to happen.” A few weeks later, the lawsuit alleges, Iowa FFA “constructively discharged” her – suggesting she felt forced to resign at that time.

Her lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination related to gender or pregnancy.

The foundation has yet to file a response to the lawsuit. Remington said Monday he had not seen Niemeyer’s lawsuit and declined to comment.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.