Army Held Liable for Sexual Harassment

The Office of Federal Operations of EEOC held that the Dept. of the Army was liable for sexual harassment when it failed to take action to remedy sexual harassment against an employee at Ft. Polk, La. Tracy L. Laventure v. Dept. of the Army, EEOC Appeal No. 0120082569 (9/2/11). In an appeal of an agency decision issued without a hearing, the Commission held that Laventure and others were subjected to sexual harassment by a female supervisor.

The supervisor's actions were sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment without culminating in tangible employment action, the decision held. The standard of liability for supervisory harassment was applied because the supervisor was responsible for evaluating Laventure's performance and providing her with direction regarding the duties she needed to perform for another supervisor.

The Commission determined that the Army was aware of the incidents but took no corrective action although an internal investigation by the deputy commander of nursing made recommendations to remedy the hostile work environment. The EEOC noted that the record supported Laventure's contention that she had to request an involuntary transfer to escape the intolerable working conditions, and held that a complainant alleging harassment should not be involuntarily transferred because it could constitute retaliation. While finding sex discrimination, the Commission did not find evidence of race discrimination because of a lack of proof that the supervisor made racial comments to or about Laventure, or about Caucasians in general.

As remedies, the EEOC ordered the agency to retroactively reinstate Laventure to her former position or to a substantially equivalent position under different supervision and to conduct a supplemental investigation on compensatory damages. In addition to training, the Commission recommended that the agency take "appropriate disciplinary action" against the offending supervisor and to report back as to what disciplinary action it takes, and if not, to "set forth the reason(s) for its decision not to impose discipline."

* This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com/.