County agency to pay $450K over alleged sexual harassment that escalated to physical assaults
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Monday, July 8, 2019

County agency to pay $450K over alleged sexual harassment that escalated to physical assaults

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

A school principal allegedly subjected two female teachers to sexual harassment, including unwanted physical touching that escalated to physical assaults; he was later convicted of criminal assault to the teachers.

The Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (AAESA) has agreed to pay $450,000 in monetary relief to two female teachers to resolve allegations that the government agency, which provides support, cooperative educational programs, and services to local school districts in Allegan County, Michigan, violated Title VII when it subjected the teachers to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. One of the teachers is to be paid $250K in monetary relief. The other, apparently still employed by the agency, will be paid $200K; she will not be required to leave her employment to receive the payment.

Harassment escalates to sexual assault. The AAESA discriminated against the two teachers when they were regularly subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace by their supervisor, a former principal at the school where they all worked, according to the complaint filed in a federal district court in Michigan. The sexual harassment included verbal abuse as well as unwanted physical touching that escalated to physical assaults, according to the Department of Justice. The principal was later convicted of criminal assault of the teachers. The complaint alleges that the AAESA did not take reasonable steps to prevent the principal’s unlawful acts.

Both teachers filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC, which investigated the charges and found a reasonable basis to believe that Title VII violations had occurred. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the charges to the DOJ, which filed suit on behalf of the United States. The two teachers intervened in lawsuit.

Other relief. In addition to the monetary relief, a consent decree not yet approved by the court will require the AESA to: review and revise existing antidiscrimination policies and procedures; implement effective policies to protect its employees from discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment; and train employees to ensure they understand how and when to report potentially discriminatory behavior and ensure that future discrimination complaints are handled properly.

"No one should be forced to endure sexual harassment to keep their job," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement. "The Justice Department, through its Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative, will continue to vigorously enforce federal antidiscrimination laws to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and help ensure that teachers and other dedicated public servants are protected from unlawful harassment in the future."

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative. The settlement in this case is part of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative announced in February 2018. The initiative is aimed at eradicating sexual harassment in state and local government workplaces. It focuses on litigation, outreach, and development of effective remedial measures to address and prevent future sex discrimination and harassment.

Companies: Allegan Area Educational Service Agency

News: AgencyNews Discrimination SexualHarassment SexDiscrimination WhiteCollarCrime

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