In two separate cases, a former Louisville, Kentucky public works director has been accused of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. The director resigned at the end of August 2012. Although he denies his departure was in connection with any of the allegations, it certainly seems to be the case.
Sexual discrimination is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This portion of the act prohibits employers and supervisors from treating employees differently because of their race, religion, ethnicity, or gender. Employees cannot be turned down for employment, denied promotions, paid less, terminated, or otherwise treated unfairly because of any of these factors. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces this portion of the act by determining if an employee has a valid claim and contacting the company. If the company refuses to resolve the issue, a lawsuit will most likely be filed.
In the Kentucky sexual discrimination case, a public works employee claimed she was discriminated against because she was female. The lawsuit states she was denied a promotion for 18 months and was only given the job after complaints of potential sexual discrimination were made to the mayor. She was finally awarded the position in June 2012, but allegedly at a lower salary than her male predecessors.
According to the EEOC, "Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Sexual harassment involves actions by a supervisor or co-worker that makes an employee uncomfortable. Unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching, and the distribution of pictures, cartoons, or jokes of a sexual nature are just a few examples of sexual harassment. A one-time incident involving something of a mildly sexual nature is generally not enough to constitute harassment; it must be either frequent or serious enough to cause a hostile work environment.
In the Kentucky sexual harassment complaint against the public works director, he allegedly entered the employee's cubicle on more than one occasion and hugged and kissed her without her consent. Non-consensual touching like this is quite serious, and the fact that it happened more than once makes it even worse.
What can a sexual discrimination or sexual harassment victim stand to gain by filing a complaint with the EEOC or a lawsuit? In the case of the woman who was allegedly paid less than her male counterparts, it is possible for her to be awarded the difference in pay and benefits with interest. In harassment cases, if the employee was forced to quit due to the hostile work environment or was fired because she refused to give in to sexual advances, she may also be due unpaid wages and benefits. In both cases, victims can be awarded damages for mental suffering and attorneys' fees. Perhaps one of the best rewards for victims is seeing the people who discriminated against them or harassed them lose their jobs, even if it was voluntarily.
No one should be treated differently at work because they are a male or female, and no one should be expected to tolerate an uncomfortable work environment for fear of being demoted or fired for complaining about the situation. If you find yourself in either of these situations, contact a Kentucky sexual discrimination attorney immediately. There is a limited amount of time to take legal action. The attorneys at Miller & Falkner are experienced in helping victims of workplace discrimination and harassment.
City public works director resigns amid discrimination suit; nky.com; Dan Klepal; September 1, 2012
Pullen harassed worker, city says; The Courier-Journal; Dan Klepal; September 8, 2012