14 May 2005

Treasury analyst whips dodgy boss

The Times - 12 April 2005
Dominatrix gives Treasury painful lesson
By Chris Ayres

A RETIRED dominatrix who traded her wooden paddle for a calculator is to be paid $60,000 (£32,000) in damages after taking a job at the US Treasury Department, where she ended up working for an abusive former client. Susan Peacher, 45, from San Francisco, claimed that her boss sexually harassed her by trying to kiss her in the lift, telling her that she had luscious lips and repeatedly asking for “sessions”. Ms Peacher, more used to giving rather than taking abuse, filed a lawsuit. The case has transformed the image of the Treasury Department, an organisation better known for tax refunds and social security payments than leather whips and sadomasochistic sex.

When the former dominatrix — known as Mistress Celeste to those who visited her San Francisco dungeon — objected to her boss’s behaviour, he made himself her direct supervisor and began to give her negative performance reviews. Eventually Ms Peacher went higher up in the Treasury Department, disclosing her former profession and complaining about her treatment. She says this simply resulted in more retaliation and abuse.

“I was very afraid I would lose credibility,” Ms Peacher told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The Bay Area is a little more accepting than other places, but I’m a private person. While I have no shame over what I did to make a living, I didn’t want to be in a position where I was judged by the choices I made.”

That was when she began compiling evidence, including phone logs and e-mails, of her harassment. Now she has been awarded $35,000 in compensatory damages, $25,000 in lawyers’ fees, a job transfer and permission to work from home one day a week, as well as 800 hours of leave that was taken away from her.

Ms Peacher began her career as an office manager in Washington before moving to California. Faced with financial problems she attended a seminar on becoming a “pro domme” and entered the sex industry.“I was initially a little wary,” she told the Chronicle. “I’m an analyst at heart. I wanted to know what I was getting into. I didn’t want to get arrested.” Eventually she had what every dominatrix dreams of: her own dungeon and her own clients, many of whom worked for newly wealthy dot-com companies.

“It was not prostitution,” she said. “It was fantasy role-play.” When the dot-com industry went into a slump, causing lay-offs in the S&M business, Ms Peacher looked for a “safer” job — in the federal Government.

Now the former dominatrix heads the local chapter of the National Treasury Employees’ Union. “If someone doesn’t stand up,” she said, “things won’t ever change.”

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