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Employment Discrimination Blog

Saturday, September 24, 2016

EEOC Settles Discrimination Claim with Georgia Baptist Church

What is being done about workplace harassment and discrimination?

The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently settled allegations of employment discrimination and retaliation with an independent Baptist church in Douglasville, Georgia.

The case arose after an employee at the King's Way Christian School, operated by King's Way Baptist Church, complained to the school that she was being sexually harassed by the school's pastor and superintendent. Rather than addressing the kindergarten teacher's complaint, the school not only fired her, but also stated she allowed the harassment to occur.

"This case is a good reminder to employers that complaints of discrimination must be treated seriously," said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director of EEOC's Atlanta District Office. "Blaming the victim when she reports harassment is never the right response and can create liability for the company."

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can occur when an employer, or a person in a position of authority, demands sexual favors from an employee in return for a job offer, a raise or promotion, or another benefit of employment. This form of harassment is referred to as quid pro quo and takes place when an employee is disciplined or fired for refusing a sexual advance. In addition, some employers may give a poor performance evaluation to an employee who rejects a sexual demand. Lastly, another type of sexual harassment involves an employee being subjected to a pattern of unwanted sexual behavior or comments that creates a hostile work environment.

In this case the school's firing of the teacher violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits retaliation against an employee who files a discrimination complaint. Retaliation can include actions such as discipline, negative evaluations, issuance of warnings, salary reduction, demotion or termination. In addition, employees can be retaliated against in other ways such as changing job assignments or work shifts. Individuals who make a complaint can also be subjected to hostile attitudes or behavior by managers, supervisors or coworkers which are also considered to be retaliation.

The Takeaway

The church has agreed to pay $25,000 to the teacher and must also update its discrimination policy and implement an equal employment opportunity training program. This case illustrates the consequences for employers who violate federal and state law that prohibit retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination or harassment. If your business needs advice on putting a discrimination policy in place or you were subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace, you should speak to an experienced employment law attorney.


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