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Norbert K. v. Department of State

121 LRP 18253, EEOC OFO Appeal No. 2021001898 (OFO 2021)

We represented a Department of State employee who was subjected to harassment by his subordinate.  The subordinate made mocking and disparaging remarks about Chinese immigrants, engaged in disrespectful communication with our client, undermined his supervision, and pretended not to understand our client’s speech.  The client’s supervisors were aware of the harassment and failed to stop it.

Our client filed an EEO complaint alleging harassment based on race (Asian) and national origin (Chinese).  The Department of State dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, reasoning that the subordinate’s conduct was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to state a claim of harassment.

We filed an appeal with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations (OFO).  The EEOC reversed the dismissal, noting: “The subordinate’s alleged behavior occurred in the context of a nation-wide increase in reports of harassment against Asian Americans.  Asian American workers face multiple sources of discrimination. One source is language or accent discrimination.”  The EEOC ordered the Department of State to investigate our client’s complaint.

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