Top TSA Official Promoted After Settling Sexual-Harassment Lawsuit With Taxpayer Money
Charles ‘Chas’ Cook was the subject of a 2014 federal lawsuit over alleged sexual misconduct and physical assault toward one of his employees.
Just one month after the TSA used taxpayer money to settle a lawsuit against a federal air marshal, he was reportedly promoted to a top position at the agency.
Branch manager Charles “Chas” Cook was the subject of a 2014 federal lawsuit and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Complaint over alleged sexual misconduct and physical assault toward one of his employees.
Sonya Labosco, a former police officer and air-marshal supervisor, spoke out publicly this week after alleging in a federal complaint that Cook once put his hand over his penis and told her that he “had eight inches of cock” anytime she wanted it. The suit—and Cook’s promotion—were first reported on Monday evening by Fox 46.
During that incident, Cook “put his hands on the back of [Labosco’s] neck and pulled her forehead into his forehead until they were touching,” according to the 32-page lawsuit Labosco filed against the TSA in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida in April 2014.
Labosco and Cook were stationed in Orlando at the time the incident occurred in May 2009 at a dinner party hosted by another TSA employee, the suit states. Labosco said that Cook called her into the kitchen to talk and implied that he could further her career if she indulged his sexual advances.
“Chas put his hand behind my neck and tried to kiss me on the mouth,” Labosco told Fox 46. “So, he pulled my head to his head inside the kitchen and tried to kiss me… I pulled back very strongly.”
“He held his hands over his erection in his pants,” she added. “I was in shock.”
Sonya’s then-fiancé—and now husband—Anthony Labosco told the news site that he witnessed the whole thing.
“What I saw is Chas Cook grab Sonya by the back of the head,” he said. “And then motion to his genital area with his other hand.”
Labosco, née Hightower, reported the incident to her superiors, and Cook received a letter of reprimand over his use of language, according to the lawsuit.
TSA spokesman Thomas Kelly declined to answer specific questions about Cook, but said in a statement to The Daily Beast: “TSA thoroughly investigated the allegations of physical misconduct when they were brought to its attention. TSA does not comment on personnel actions.”
According to the lawsuit, after Labosco reported the incident, “[Cook] immediately began to discriminate against her in the workplace and created/participated in a hostile work environment” including “singling her out and speaking to her in a manner that he never spoke to her male coworkers, for example, telling her to ‘Get your ass in my office now.’”
Then Labosco was demoted.
While she was leaving a meeting, at least one other employee allegedly witnessed Cook physically grabbed Labosco’s forearm with his hand and squeezing it until it hurt, the lawsuit alleges.
“He grabbed my arm, twisted it really hard, left fingerprints on my arm and tried to pull me out of the room,” she told Fox 46. “He told me to get the fuck out of the room. I better get the fuck out now.”
The TSA reportedly told the news station that Labosco’s allegations “were determined to be unsupported” by the agency and that they were “resolved by mutual agreement among all parties without any finding of fault or liability” in the 2014 court settlement.
Despite the TSA’s alleged findings, Labosco told the news site that the EEOC concluded that “at a minimum, [Cook] placed his hands upon [Labosco] and grabbed her arm.”
EEOC spokesperson Joseph Olivares told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that his office could not confirm or deny the existence of Labosco’s complaint—let alone its findings—because of the confidentiality provisions in federal Title VII laws, since no lawsuit was filed by the commission itself.
Once the lawsuit was settled with taxpayer money—and both the external and internal investigations were concluded—Cook was promoted.
UPDATE, 10/30/18, 11:20 p.m.: This article has been edited with updated job information about Cook. According to the TSA, Cook’s TSA title is branch manager and he is not No. 3 in the Federal Air Marshal Service.