UPDATE: Wyoming Military Sued For Sex Discrimination; Department Declines To Comment
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the Wyoming Military Department on Thursday, alleging it discriminated against a female former employee at Camp Guernsey on the basis of her sex when it failed or refused to act when her male supervisor harassed her, according to a news release and court documents.
A spokeswoman for the Wyoming Military Department declined to comment.
"We don't respond to ongoing litigation," Deidre Forster said. "Even when it's something serious like this. The state Attorney General's Office is representing us in this."
According to the DOJ complaint, the harassment began after the woman returned from maternity leave in October 2010, when her immediate supervisor -- the former director of the Wyoming Military Department’s Youth Challenge Program -- told her he wanted a personal relationship with her, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
His conduct included unwanted emails about his personal life with his then wife; unwanted written expressions of affection including songs and poems; and invasion of her work space to discuss personal issues to the point of interfering with her ability to do her work and forcing her invent pretexts to get away from him.
She repeatedly rejected his advances and asked him to keep their relationship on a professional level.
She filed complaints with the Wyoming Military Department saying her supervisor’s behavior was unwelcome and he wouldn't stop when asked.
The employee received no effective help from the Wyoming Military Department despite her complaints to its human resources department and management officials. The supervisor’s actions and the department's lack of assistance caused her to resign in September 2011.
The harassment lead to a hostile work environment based on sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is the federal law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
“Title VII ensures that no woman should have to choose between keeping her job and enduring sexual harassment in the workplace,” said the DOJ's Civil Rights Division Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “When employers learn about allegations of sexual harassment, the law requires that they take swift action to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable.”
The former employee filed a sex discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC's Denver Field Office investigated and found reasonable cause to believe that the Wyoming Military Department discriminated against her.
After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the Wyoming Military Department to implement employment policies that prevent hostile work environment harassment based on sex. The United States also will seek to obtain “make whole” relief, including monetary damages, for the victim.
The case was brought by the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section. Enforcing federal employment discrimination laws is a top priority for the Justice Department. Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website.