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VA admits sexual harassment and retaliation

Complainant v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, VA Case No. 2004-0688-2018104731

We represented an employee who worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Washington, DC.  For about two years, the employee’s supervisor repeatedly kissed her on the mouth and made other unwanted sexual conduct.  The employee did not report the sexual harassment for fear of retaliation.  However, she later learned that the supervisor also harassed two of her colleagues.  Together, the three women confronted the supervisor and demanded that the harassment stop.  The supervisor denied any wrongdoing and claimed that his conduct was “paternal” in nature.  For the next few weeks, he began criticizing the employee’s work and pressuring her to work with him on projects.  He also made threatening statements, indicating that he would hurt her career if she refused to comply.

The employee and one of her colleagues reported the harassment to their second-line supervisor.  The second-line supervisor asked if a “heartfelt apology” would resolve their concerns, and he discouraged them from filing an EEO complaint.  The second-line supervisor failed to conduct a prompt investigation and required the women to continue reporting to their harasser.  He asked the women to “wait it out” until their harasser retired in a few months.

We represented the employee by filing an EEO complaint with the VA.  The VA issued a Final Agency Decision (FAD), concluding that our client was subjected to illegal sexual harassment and retaliation.  The harasser retired from his employment; however, the VA ordered the second-level supervisor to take 12 hours of in-person EEO training and advised leadership to consider taking disciplinary action against him.  The FAD also invited us to submit evidence supporting an award of compensatory damages for pain and suffering and reimbursement of attorney’s fees.

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