121 LRP 23001, 122 FEOR 45, EEOC Appeal No. 0120170202 (OFO 2021)
Our client accepted a job with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Upon learning of our client’s hiring, another VA employee researched her on the internet, discovered that she was a lesbian, told everyone in the office, and made negative comments about her sexual orientation. Shortly after the client began her job at the VA, her supervisor told her what the coworker did. The coworker excluded our client from work activities and continued to make homophobic and other disparaging comments about her. After enduring months of harassment with no assistance from management, our client requested to transfer to another VA office.
The client filed an EEO complaint alleging sexual orientation discrimination and asked the VA to issue a Final Agency Decision (FAD). The FAD concluded that the harassment was not sufficiently severe and pervasive to be unlawful, noting that the client was not present when her coworker made most of the homophobic comments. The FAD also found that the VA took corrective action by granting the client’s request to transfer.
The client retained our firm to file an appeal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations. Although the client was not always present when the coworker made homophobic comments, we argued that the fact that the supervisor condoned and participated in the harassment by conveying the comments to our client. Instead of taking prompt and effective corrective action, the VA denied the client’s repeated requests for help, leaving her with no choice but to request a transfer. The EEOC agreed with our arguments, reversed the FAD, and entered judgment in our client’s favor.