NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — North Smithfield Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski is being sued by his former administrative assistant, who’s accused him of making inappropriate comments toward her and other staffers.
The lawsuit alleges that Zwolenski, who was sworn in as town administrator in December 2020, created an oppressive and uncomfortable work environment by repeatedly making sexualized remarks and gestures.
The situation escalated more than a year into his tenure, when Zwolenski’s former administrative assistant left a birthday gift for him on his desk.
The town employee claims that, when Zwolenski noticed the gift, he asked her if he could trade it in for a sexual favor.
“[The employee] immediately said ‘no you can’t,’ and Paul Zwolenski then asked if he crossed the line,” the lawsuit states. “[The employee] said ‘yes, and please can we never speak of this again.'”
But Zwolenski would bring up the conversation several times in the days that followed, including once in front of a human resources employee who “took no action,” according to the lawsuit.
The employee alleges that Zwolenski continued to laugh and make light of his remarks when she asked him to stop bringing it up.
She also accused Zwolenski of stating the phrase, “Hey little girl, do you want some candy?” at her in a sexualized manner from his car on two separate occasions.
“Paul Zwolenski repeatedly and consistently talks to and about people in a way that is sexualized and makes physical gestures that are sexualized as well,” the lawsuit states.
Zwolenski’s actions, according to the lawsuit, forced his administrative assistant to “seek transfer from the job she had to another within the town.”
The lawsuit alleges Zwolenski violated the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act, Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The employee claims she suffered emotional distress and discrimination at the hands of Zwolenski and is requesting compensatory, consequential and exemplary damages.
12 News reached out to the attorney representing Zwolenski regarding the allegations but has not yet heard back.