Justice Department Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Michigan School District
The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (AAESA), a government agency providing support, cooperative educational programs, and services to local school districts in Allegan County, Michigan. The lawsuit alleges that AAESA subjected two female teachers to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.
The Department’s complaint, filed today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleges that AAESA discriminated against two female teachers when they were regularly subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace by their supervisor, a former principal at the school where they all worked. According to the complaint, the sexual harassment of the teachers included verbal abuse as well as unwanted physical touching that escalated to physical assaults. The principal was later convicted of criminal assault of the teachers. The complaint alleges that AAESA did not take reasonable steps to prevent his unlawful acts.
“All Americans are entitled to a workplace that is free of unlawful harassment based on sex,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The types of discriminatory acts alleged in this lawsuit, resulting in these public sector employees suffering years of verbal and emotional abuse and ending with physical assaults, can be prevented only when employers cultivate workplace environments where workers know that such misconduct will not be tolerated.”
Both teachers filed charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC investigated the charges and found that there was a reasonable basis to believe that violations of Title VII had occurred. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts by the EEOC, the charges were referred by the EEOC to the Justice Department.
Through this lawsuit, the United States seeks monetary relief for each of the teachers and injunctive relief to require AAESA to develop and implement policies that would prevent sex discrimination and harassment in the future.
Today’s lawsuit is part of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative announced in February 2018. The Initiative is aimed at eradicating sexual harassment in state and local government workplaces. It focuses on litigation, outreach, and development of effective remedial measures to address and prevent future sex discrimination and harassment.
Attorneys assigned to the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division represent the United States in this matter.
Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at https://www.justice.gov/crt
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