U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Women’s Shelter Terminated One Employee And Demoted Another For Sexual Harassment Complaints, Federal Agency Charges
ST. LOUIS – Comprehensive Human Services, Inc., also known as True North, Inc, which provides shelter for women who have been victims of domestic violence, violated federal law by terminating one employee and demoting another because the employees complained about sexual harassment by the organization’s then director, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a discrimination lawsuit filed today in federal court.
According to the EEOC’s suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Civil Action No. 2:10-4216, Nancy Gause and Tracie Lawson, who were co-directors of the shelter at the time, alerted the President and Vice-President of the Board of Directors that shelter director, Leigh Voltmer, had touched staff members inappropriately on several occasions. Voltmer was the highest-ranking employee at the shelter. Gause complained on behalf of staff members whom she supervised.
Within two weeks of complaining about the discrimination, Lawson was demoted and her salary cut, and Gause was fired. Both women had received positive feedback regarding their performance during their tenure as employees, but were terminated without warning allegedly for poor performance.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from allowing a hostile environment in the workplace. It also protects employees from retaliation based on their complaints of violations of the law. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
“An organization that purports to shield women from abuse should be particularly sensitive to the fact that women must be allowed to work in an environment devoid of sexual harassment. When employees come forward to try to eradicate this behavior, they should be supported, not retaliated against,” said Barbara A. Seely, Regional Attorney of the St. Louis District. “The EEOC is committed to fighting retaliation in the workplace.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.