Harassment Judgment Against Wyoming Military Department Is The First Of Its Kind
The judgment in federal court last week against the Wyoming Military Department for sexual harassment marked the first such victory since the launch of a new program in the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a news release from the Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office.
“The verdict sends the clear message that this Justice Department will continue to effectively combat sex-based discrimination whenever it occurs in a public sector workplace," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.
This case began at Camp Guernsey in October 2010 when Amanda Dykes returned from maternity leave and her immediate supervisor Don Smith -- the former director of the Wyoming Military Department’s Youth Challenge Program -- told her he wanted a personal relationship with her, according to court records.
Dykes repeatedly rejected his advances, asked him to keep their relationship on a professional level, and filed complaints, but her supervisors and human resources officers didn't help.
The supervisor’s actions and the department's lack of assistance caused Dykes to resign in September 2011, according to court records.
She originally filed her sexual harassment charge against the Wyoming Military Department with the Denver Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC determined there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination had occurred and referred the matters to the Department of Justice, which sued in 2016.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl conducted a bench trial in July 2017, and issued his judgment Thursday. He ordered the Wyoming Military Department to give her a back pay award totaling $221,030.62.
According to the news release from the Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office, this judgment represents the first successful sexual harassment trial verdict obtained in a Title VII case since the launch of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative.
The Justice Department said it will continue to bring sex discrimination claims against state and local government employers with a renewed emphasis on sexual harassment charges, according to the news release.
It also will work to develop effective remedial measures that can be used to hold public sector employers accountable where Title VII violations have been found, including changing existing employer practices and policies to create safer work environments. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.